Radio broadcasts were first invented in the 1890s, and by the first decade of the 1900s people were using the technology to broadcast frequencies over the airwaves. As a result, in 1912, the United States passed a law that made licensing for a radio station mandatory. While there were many legal motivations for this, it was nonetheless restrictive for a population eager to get their voice into other people’s radios. In this early stage, people could get licensing at affordable prices with very little trouble. However, over time, radio laws became far more strict. That’s when pirate radio came to be.
Pirate radio was unlicensed radio that was sent out over the air. Sometimes this would be from a person who simply wanted a station of their own, and who broadcast from their own home. These people were usually shut down quickly if they had too much actual exposure. The more long term pirate radio stations were broadcast from boats located in international waters. These stations were far more difficult to shut down.
In different regions of the world, at different times throughout history, pirate radio has seen spikes in popularity and political use. In the modern era, however, when radio licensing is even more difficult, pirate radio has taken on a new form: internet radio.
Internet radio stations are far more accessible than off-shores boat based radio stations ever were. An individual interested in running their own station can purchase the needed bandwidth and software to create their own program, and begin their journey into the web broadcasting world within a few hours. While they may not have listeners stumbling across their voice when browsing channels, a number of promotional methods unique to the internet exist.
There are still legal restrictions on what can be broadcast, but most of these have to do with licensing for music being played or similar. Modern pirates eager to share political views, opinions, and more have found a regular pirate’s bounty in the world wide web.