MoonDawg's Den: The Prince and the Pirates

MoonDawg's Den

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Prince and the Pirates

Today Drudge links to a strange story about a rogue file-sharing company, The Pirate Bay, which is attempting to buy its own country in order to evade international copyright laws - i.e., the "mirconation" of Sealand.

The story of Sealand is strange enough in its own right. During WWII, the British Royal Navy built a "sea fort" called Roughs Tower just off the southeast coast of Britain, and equipped it with radar, naval guns, and anti-aircraft cannons. A decade after the war ended the Royal Navy abandoned the platform and left it to rot. But in 1967 a character named Paddy Roy Bates from Essex took over the derelict sea fort, moved his family there, and set up a pirate radio station. But other pirate broadcasters also coveted Roughs Tower, and the Bates family had to fight off the invaders with "Molotov cocktails, handguns, and sawn-off shotguns".

The mini naval battles, visible from the nighttime shores of Suffolk, drew the ire of Essex authorities, and Bates was brought to book on firearms charges. But in 1968 an Essex court dismissed the charges, ruling that Roughs Tower was outside of the UK's territorial sea limit, and therefore beyond the reach of British law since it rested in international waters. The emboldened Bates declared the platform to be the sovereign Principality of Sealand, and dubbed himself and his family as the royalty of the new micronation. Eventually "Prince Roy" issued passports for Sealand, and created its own flag, currency, stamps, and even a national anthem.

Now the family of the radio pirate is looking to make a deal with modern-day digital pirates. Prince Roy's "royal heir", his son Prince Michael, is offering to sell Sealand for £100 million, and the Sweden-based Pirate Bay is trying to secure funds for the purchase. What's more, anyone who donates money to the cause can become a "citizen" of Sealand themselves - avast, ye scury Net geeks!


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