Blackspot

Support Online Piracy

Piracy is a litmus test for authentic culture and a censorship-free internet.
Spoof designed by The Pirate Bay, the world's largest online piracy website.

The battle between online pirates and corporations is heating up. In the last few days both sides have had significant victories. The pirates have proven yet again that they have guts after a version of the newest X-Men film was released onto The Piratebay, the world's largest pirate website, before it was released in the theatres. But the corporations are fighting back in States such as France and Sweden which have passed laws that will, if unopposed, inaugurate the death of the internet dream. No longer a wild frontier, unsettled and open to future possibilities, the fight against online piracy is justifying increasingly draconian measures that will put our online behavior under the corporate-capitalist microscope. Under the pretense of monitoring whether we are downloading pirated culture, corporations have engineered a symbolic coup in which the spirit of the internet has become inverted. The capitalist bullies are taking back the playground, unless we fight back. The only way forward, toward the original dream of censorship-free communication, is to build mainstream support for online piracy based on the argument that piracy is a litmus test for authentic culture.

The French plan to lock down the Internet involves, predictably, collusion between the State and corporations. According to the New York Times, "The law empowers music and film industry associations to hire companies to analyze the downloads of individual users to detect piracy, and to report violations to a new agency overseeing copyright protection. The agency would be authorized to trace the illegal downloads back to individuals using the downloading computer’s unique identification number, known as its Internet Protocol, or IP, address, which the Internet service providers have on record." In other words, all French internet traffic will be turned over to private corporations who will sift through every website visited, email read, and late-night IM conversation had looking for "illegal downloading". If a user is caught three times, then their internet connection is disconnected, permanently. Such an audacious internet surveillance scheme would probably not have passed had it not targeted an activity few of us are willing to stand up and publicly endorse. That is precisely the reason we must do so: if online piracy is the backdoor by which control of the internet will come, then we must openly acknowledge what many of us already secretly believe -- that online culture should be free and remixable, the laws of capitalism shall not apply here.

Piracy... the word sends shivers up the spine as it evokes hungry Somali pirates seizing cargo and holding hostages. But online piracy is not the same, to make a copy is not a depletion, but a multiplication of the original. Online piracy, we should really call it online replication, is a beautiful thing for it offers an easy litmus test for authentic culture. Take, for example, two hypothetical films: one made by struggling idealistic art students and the other by a big name director backed by a major studio with a multimillion dollar budget and nationwide advertising campaign. If each film was pirated and watched by a million people we could reasonably expect that the film students would be ecstatic (without an advertising budget their film would have been doomed to the art house circuit) while the big name director would be furious. Why? Because the film students are doing it for art while the director is doing it for the money. This is, in simple terms, what I believe the political potential of piracy to be -- piracy allows us to quickly ascertain the authenticity of a cultural product. Roughly, we could say that an authentic cultural production would be one that does not suffer from piracy because the artistic goal is in line with remix culture. Let us endorse the artists who support piracy and pirate the ones who don't. In this way we will be helping authentic culture while destroying inauthentic, capitalist culture.

There is no swifter way to bring about the de-commercialization of art than to undercut the profit motive. Likewise, there is no better way to promote a blackspot culture than to actively copy and distribute the cultural productions that speak to us and the future we'd like to build. If we pirate everything, how will the artists get paid? That is precisely the point: piracy opens up the possibility of imagining new ways of being and new ways of supporting the potential of art to change the world.

Micah White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters magazine and an independent activist. He is writing a book on the future of activism. www.micahmwhite.com

Attention: What does the blackspot mean to you? If you have something to share that will further the blackspot philosophy, write it up in under 300 words and send it to micah (at) adbusters.org.

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164 comments on the article “Support Online Piracy”

Displaying 131 - 140 of 164

Page 14 of 17

Anonymous

Plese dont buy Micah's book when it is released, instead - download a copy just to make sure he doesnt get paid, and is thus liberated form the 'commercialization of art and is able to undercut the profit motive.' and Micah - in case you are wondering how to do this - just put up a torrent of your book as a PDF on pirate bay etc, before your publisher has a chance to release a paper version -

Anonymous

Plese dont buy Micah's book when it is released, instead - download a copy just to make sure he doesnt get paid, and is thus liberated form the 'commercialization of art and is able to undercut the profit motive.' and Micah - in case you are wondering how to do this - just put up a torrent of your book as a PDF on pirate bay etc, before your publisher has a chance to release a paper version -

Anonymous

message directed at 'earthling's ' comments - the reality of the matter is its not just big corporations who are suffering the effects of unauthorized or un-consented downloading/filesharing all independent musicians who self-release their own music are being downloaded as well. this makes it even more difficult to establish a support group of fans who appreciate their work enough to show gratitude through financial returns, which then allows the musician time to record more music. thy is it so hard for you to understand this basic concept? are you not realy an earthling with feelings or a brain?

Anonymous

message directed at 'earthling's ' comments - the reality of the matter is its not just big corporations who are suffering the effects of unauthorized or un-consented downloading/filesharing all independent musicians who self-release their own music are being downloaded as well. this makes it even more difficult to establish a support group of fans who appreciate their work enough to show gratitude through financial returns, which then allows the musician time to record more music. thy is it so hard for you to understand this basic concept? are you not realy an earthling with feelings or a brain?

Anonymous

The downloading/ filesharing/ copying does nothing to damage independent artists. I can't remember the last time I went to a gig, or bought a CD by an artist without having already copied their CD from someone else. In addition to this, I know that the artists concerned wouldn't feel any bitterness towards me if I had not been able to afford a copy of their album, because they do it for the music, not for the money. Not to mention the fact that i'd put them up for the night if they were playing in my town, and talk about how great they are to other people. Anyone in the music industry (at almost any level) quickly learns that music is a great way of making not much money... it is rewarding in other ways.

Anonymous

The downloading/ filesharing/ copying does nothing to damage independent artists. I can't remember the last time I went to a gig, or bought a CD by an artist without having already copied their CD from someone else. In addition to this, I know that the artists concerned wouldn't feel any bitterness towards me if I had not been able to afford a copy of their album, because they do it for the music, not for the money. Not to mention the fact that i'd put them up for the night if they were playing in my town, and talk about how great they are to other people. Anyone in the music industry (at almost any level) quickly learns that music is a great way of making not much money... it is rewarding in other ways.

Jon C

It's great that so many people see the fallacy in Micah's logic. A typical thought process for someone who is against anything that looks or smells like business. I'm a software engineer and contribute on the side to open source (freely-available) software projects. But I still need to make money from my day job to survive. I didn't spend so many years of college and my personal time and energy to work for nothing. I imagine it's the same with artists. Let them decide what and when they want to make their work available for free and stop trying to twist this around into a political argument. Jon C

Jon C

It's great that so many people see the fallacy in Micah's logic. A typical thought process for someone who is against anything that looks or smells like business. I'm a software engineer and contribute on the side to open source (freely-available) software projects. But I still need to make money from my day job to survive. I didn't spend so many years of college and my personal time and energy to work for nothing. I imagine it's the same with artists. Let them decide what and when they want to make their work available for free and stop trying to twist this around into a political argument. Jon C

Anonymous

if we look at what apple has done with itunes, i think that is a great example on downloading stuff off the Internet.it proves that no law has to be created for companies to make money. I say this because itunes has almost sold 1 billion applications in the last couple months, which is a great benefit for them. Not to mention they sell music, and you can rent movies online, and despite the fact that people do download, people are also buying. On a side note dont think apple is the one with the lucky break as adobe does the same with CS3 CS4 downloads and buys.

Anonymous

if we look at what apple has done with itunes, i think that is a great example on downloading stuff off the Internet.it proves that no law has to be created for companies to make money. I say this because itunes has almost sold 1 billion applications in the last couple months, which is a great benefit for them. Not to mention they sell music, and you can rent movies online, and despite the fact that people do download, people are also buying. On a side note dont think apple is the one with the lucky break as adobe does the same with CS3 CS4 downloads and buys.

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