An unprecedented public reaction to the Pirate Bay verdict in Sweden led to membership of the Pirate Party skyrocketing from just a few thousand to almost 30,000 in the space of a few days.
By sheer weight of numbers, this now makes the party Sweden's fourth-largest, overtaking established heavyweights such as the Green Party.
The 'pirates' will now contest the European elections in June on their usual mandate of copyright law reform, abolishing patents and increased privacy rights for EU citizens. The party's vice-chairman and head of list, Christian Engström - who believes the ruling came about as a result of the powerful American film and music industry applying pressure on the Swedish government – told EurActiv that "this verdict is our ticket to the European Parliament".
The party's vice-chairman believes the popular anger inspired by the case can be translated into electoral gains for the Pirate Party, following their unprecedented surge in membership. "If everyone who is angry about this ruling votes for us, we'll take at least one seat" in the elections, he said.
Engström denied that the membership explosion, as some claim, was a knee-jerk reaction that will pass before election day. "The energy will still be there" in early June, he claimed, pointing out that the majority of registered members who voted for the party in the Swedish parliamentary elections in 2006 remain members today.
Eurosceptic voters could turn to the 'pirates'
The party draws its support almost exclusively from younger voters, something very rare in European contemporary politics. Some political experts have argued that this is because the Pirate Party is effectively a one-issue movement campaigning on a highly controversial and emotive topic that resonates with a new generation.
Though the movement prefers to call itself a "focus party", Engström said that "even if you call us a single issue party, that single issue – defending democratic freedoms on and offline – stands above everything else. Agricultural policy and the ban on snus might be very interesting in their own right, but without basic democracy, there's no point in even having an opinion on these matters".
The party believes the EU has "failed comprehensively" when it comes to regulating citizens' rights and freedoms on the Internet. Debate in Sweden regarding these matters is a few years of ahead of everywhere else, according to Engström, but as the debate spreads across the EU, so too will public anger.
"Because the Commission and Council are unelected, it gives lobbyists a free pass to influence the EU agenda," claimed Engström, who also believes that virtually all EU proposals on Internet freedom and regulation have been written word-for-word by industry lobbyists.
As a result, the 'pirates' may well attract traditionally eurosceptic voters in Sweden, according to Engström.
Despite the massive pan-European media coverage afforded to both the Pirate Bay ruling and the growth of the Pirate Party in Sweden, it is unlikely that the repercussions and genuine public anger over the case will be translated into electoral gains outside Sweden.
At the time of writing, the only other country which will field Pirate Party candidates is Germany.