Pirate Politics describes the actions of political parties established to advocate for the ethics of online piracy. With the rise of peer to peer services and torrent sites, file sharing has become a global phenomenon and was eventually conflated with an individual rights struggle. The Swedish version of the party is perhaps best known due to widespread cultural tolerance for piracy in Sweden (even allowing for a religious protection under the Church of Kopimism). The German Pirate Party has enjoyed the most political success owing to its upstart Parliamentary wins.
The party characterizes itself as neither left nor right leaning and focuses its energies primarily on promoting government transparency, online and offline privacy and copyright reform (Taylor, p.160).
Pirate politics elevate to a human right the ability to share anything, be it ideas, content, government data or formulae for life saving patent protected pharmaceuticals. The ethic is both anticapitalist and fundamentally reliant on the production of the capitalist system, without which there would be considerably less to pilfer. While there is an economic justice slant that couches piracy in redistributive terms, there does not seem to be a call for an outright abolition of private property. Instead, the goals seem limited to more esoteric concepts such as liberating creativity and equalizing access. There is as much an affinity to creators of content as there is a contempt for big business as the intermediator of content, which leaves piracy enthusiasts in an awkward position as those same companies they revile are responsible for granting wealth to the creators they celebrate.
Taylor defines “Free” in two different ways, first in a cultural way, free refers as belonging to everyone and something that no one can own; it belongs to all “knowledge cannot be owned and we have a responsibility to share it” (Taylor, Loc 2210).
Free is also referred as cognition that is public property. Moreover, in the digital world free can be perceived as “ free access”, “free download”, “openness”. According to the software programmer Richard Stallman, Free has two sides “ There’s ‘free’ as in speech and ‘free’ as in beer, as the famous” (Taylor, Loc2241), meaning, that is free culture is for the people to enrich from it, however there is a public ownership. As an example, Taylor states that “ art and culture are nonetheless vital, essential eve, to what it means to be human, yet digital abundance diminished our sense of their work” (Taylor Loc.2252). Free, is about keeping culture open meaning that since no one forces an artist to release their work, once they do release it, it should really be free to spread.
Group: Giselle Lopez, Yauheniya Chuyashova
When Taylor says “access to content” she is referring to the large companies (capitalists) who are providing a service (ISPs) to allow the public to use the internet/digital media. Giving access to digital media allows these companies to provide their database of users to other large companies. The “distribution networks” are the companies that control how content is spread. Both work together to basically make money off the users. Facebook and Google do not sell any type of service (digitally), but advertisers see how many users they each have and therefore can use that to generate funds by selling ad space or user database. So let’s say Verizon Fios provides me with internet; they allow me to have access to content. Once I am online I go to a distribution network, say Facebook. Facebook then can trade that information in back to Verizon or whoever else is the highest bidder to try to attract me into purchasing another one of their products. The whole system was created for the benefit of capitalists.
The term copyleft is used to describe the opposite of what copyright law was intended to do. While copyright law was intended to protect the work of artists, musicians, etc., those who support copyleft support the ability for users to redistribute information without consequence. These free culture lobbyists believe that an open society will result in equality for all. There is an entrenched belief that culture should be free and the creative works of others should not be owned by the creators, but rather, the public. However, the text highlights the problems with copyleft, stating:
“it offers a limited political response to entrenched systems of economic privilege, and it does not advance limits on profitability or promote fair compensation. Free culture, with its emphasis on access, does not necessarily lead to a more just social order. To pay to watch an independent movie does not mean capitulating to the privatization of knowledge, but rather recognizes the work that went into making it and provides some support so that the effort can continue.”
In our current society, the lobbying for copyleft has also resulted in the rationalization of the “struggling artist” in my opinion. We often look for ways to obtain free music, books and other creative works, and we justify our position for not wanting to pay for these items by romanticizing the idea of the struggling artist. We act as though it is a rite of passage, and perhaps it was in the past, however, if our society continues in the way it does, those in the creative field would be forced to create in their spare time since they are not being compensated for their work, and will be forced to look to other means for a source of income.
“Copyleft” is the practice of making a program or work free and requiring that all works derived from it also remain free to the public. The GNU General Public License was originally written by Richard Stallman as a way to ensure freedom of users to redistribute and modify copies of software. In his 1985 GNU manifesto he wrote, “GNU is not in the public domain. Everyone will be permitted to modify and redistribute GNU, but no distributor will be allowed to restrict its further redistribution. That is to say, proprietary modifications will not be allowed. I want to make sure that all versions of GNU remain free.” His reasoning was that he wanted to encourage free software to spread for the betterment of society.
Copyright law is used by an author to prohibit unauthorized reproduction, adaptation or use of the work. GNU or Copyleft licensing agreements use existing copyright laws but they ensure that the work remains free and available. Copyleft, while originally designed for software, can also cover documents and art. Under copyleft license, the author can give every person who receives the work the permission to redistribute and modify it, with the accompanying requirement that any resulting copies or adaptations are also bound by the same licensing agreement.
Taylor states “it does not advance limits on profitability or promote fair compensation” (168). While recognition from peers is an incentive, there is no financial compensation to the artist. Filmmaker Jem Cohen emphasizes “respect for labor” where it is reasonable for an artist to receive fair compensation for his work. Copyleft and the free culture movement do not allow for that. Cohen believes that we need to value the work of the artist and recognize the work that went into it to create an environment of mutual respect and support between the artist and the audience.
Digital Media and Society
September 27, 2015
In chapter 5 “The Double Anchor” Taylor talks about traditional concepts of cultural ownership and how these notions are being challenged by digital media. Traditional ideas of cultural ownership emphasizes exclusive possession, meaning cultural works could only be used in their original form and context. However, Taylor states that this idea of cultural ownership is “fanciful” in this digital media era. “Online creative works are decontextualize, remixed, and mashed up. We surf, and skim, passing along songs instead of albums, quotes instead of essays, clips instead of films.” (p.145). Once an artist’s work enters the cyberspace, he/she has little control over it, thus the term “ownership” becomes very illusive.
However, upon discussing these definitions of cultural ownership as traditional versus non-traditional, my classmate Joyce and I talked about how the line between the two can get blurry. By Taylor’s definition, non-traditional ownership means that an artists’ work can be taken out of context, and that he has no control over how it circulates, but it so can happen without the aid of digital media. For example, if you read a work of literature and then lend the same physical copy to a friend, that friend might understand it in completely different ways than you did because that friend filters it through the lens of their own experiences and prior knowledge. And so if that friend then lends that same copy to a third person, their introduction and summary of the same book to this third person can differ greatly from what you understood the text was about, therefore affecting how the third person will understand it; again, the artists has no control over how their work circulates. Maybe they never really had control over it and digital media is just magnifying this occurrence.
Because digital media has prompted us to think more about ownership, laws surrounding this matter have become more rigid than ever. “Cultural commons are being cordoned off by private interest” (p.145) Taylor states, highlighting the contrast between the original intent of copyright laws, which was to serve as an incentive for the production of literary goods by recompensing writers and publishers, and the rigid structure that it has become today.
Limited monopoly privilege is best described as the first version of copyright. Modeled after Great Britain’s Statute of Anne to manage book trading, limited monopoly privilege was developed reluctantly by Thomas Jefferson and the farmers of the Constitution who recognized that the concept of cultural property, though difficult to define, required some form of regulation. To put protective law on intellectual property is difficult because ideas are intangible. Where thoughts lack a physical being like that of a printed book or a chair, they do have tremendous potential and could spark even greater ideas that could, potentially, greatly benefit society. If a creator feared exploitation of his or her idea by others, they were likely to simply not publish or share their work. It was then decided that to provide creators with temporary exclusive rights and legal protection to their creations would encourage further creation of new cultural entities. Limited monopoly privilege was stressed to be an interim period, establishing monetary support to cultural creators for a window of time before their work, and ideally additional work, became free to all and part of our collective heritage. Until 1978 copyright in the styling of limited monopoly privilege was in practice mostly for books, charts and maps until a new definition of copyright’s scope was expanded to “apply to any ‘expression’ that has been ‘fixed’ to any medium” and even further deviated from the intended limitations, allowing copyright to extend to 70 years.