When a radio station broadcasts, it has to pay for the wave space it uses which is regulated by a third party. However, not everybody wants to pay for the air space and many people choose to broadcast illegally, this is known as pirate radio. Given that there is no way to block people from sending out coded waves into the atmosphere, it is fairly easy to do so and thus radio is often exploited this way. Other names for pirate radio station include bootleg stations, clandestine stations, and free stations.
There is some discussion about when a pirate radio broadcast becomes illegal. For example, many deem that the practice is only illegal once the radio signal is received by the person who is listening to it, not when the signal is broadcasted. Many argue that there is no such thing as illegal radio, as when the airwaves were first invented, they were all public and open to use by hobbyist and people who enjoyed experimenting, it was only later that they were commercialized. There has also been some debate given that the United Nations seems in some ways to support the free use of the airways. In 1948, it said ‘everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’
A loophole which has long been used to try and escape the legality of pirate radio is by broadcasting from the sea on a boat or other vessel. If pirate radio stations do this, then they argue that they are merely broadcasting into the open and not directly into the legal airspace of any one particular country. Pirate broadcasting has become somewhat less of an issue since the popularity of the internet has increased.