We humans are thinking, speaking creatures, with a theoretically limitless capacity to analyse the world around us, and, if we are lucky, to also make sense of our own internal worlds. Under informational capitalism an elite class of 'thought robbers' exploit our mental and affective capacities. We, and especially the untenured 'we', the indy intellectual 'we', or the cultural activist 'we', toil at our texts only to perhaps then witness them being padlocked inside hierarchies of knowledge which we cannot afford to access. The 'University Inc.' or 'edu-factory' and its co-dependent sibling, academic publishing, siphon the worst qualities of managerialism and profiteering to support systemised structures of knowledge enclosures. In response, the cognitariat have started to rebel. In 2012 a mathematician blogged the withdrawal of his labour from the Elsevier academic behemoth. His stance triggered worldwide solidarity. While the unfolding narrative of grassroots mobilisation resonates with the official, overly earnest Open Access movement, it seems to hold more anarchic possibilities for the cooperative creation of unfettered systems of production and exchange of knowledge.
What is often called ‘digital piracy’ is nowadays a mundane and everyday activity. As such, piracy is a commonplace disorder within the order of information capitalism; it is both created by the ubiquitous orders of information capitalism and suppressed by those orders. In the myriad points of view of its participants piracy represents an order which is implicit within contemporary life, which we will call ‘pirarchy’.
The attached chapter entitled ‘Piracy is Normal, Piracy is Boring: systemic disruption as everyday life’ by Francesca da Rimini and Jonathan Marshall was written for the book Piracy: Leakages from Modernity edited by Martin Fredriksson and James Arvanitakis (Litwin Press, USA, forthcoming 2012, http://litwinbooks.com/piracy.php).
Although we have thus far discussed P2P file-sharing in terms of its most representative instances, that is, the exchange of materials drawn from popular culture, other artefact classes are also swapped, from pornography to ‘serious’ publications. Sometimes genre-specific events can bring into focus larger issues arising from cultural commodification, public domain contraction, and resultant counter actions and movements. For example, recently American digital activist Aaron Swartz allegedly downloaded a massive number of papers from the JSTOR academic database. Subsequently the United States Government brought unprecedented charges against him, claiming that he planned to release the material through P2P networks. This case demonstrates how even the spectre of unsubstantiated file-sharing can trigger disordering responses across informational domains (academia, publishing, policing, justice), some of which which might be more rooted in emotions (anger, fear, revenge, spite, etc.) than in pragmatic circumspection.
Coordinated opposition had defanged the final version of Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and will continue attacking other supra-national digital enclosures such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Hence powerful copyright advocates including the International Federation for the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) have concurrently operated outside such treaty frameworks to pressure individual governments in an ‘especially aggressive’ way to force ISPs to police copyright infringements (Bridy 2010: 2). To date Britain, France, South Korea, and Taiwan, have incorporated various forms of graduated response into their domestic copyright enforcement systems (ibid.). Furthermore, other countries are exploring ‘private ordering’ options to enforce online copyright (Bridy 2010: 11-15; Toner 2011). These range from ‘cooperative relationships’ between major content distributors and broadband providers in which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) suspend repeat infringers’ accounts (in the United States), to ISPs being the ‘sole arbiter of the customer’s innocence or guilt’ terminating accounts without court orders (in Ireland). In Australia, the ISP iiNet after winning a precedent-setting law suit brought against it by an alliance of mainly US content owners proposed a graduated response model in which an ‘independent body’ meeting ‘community standards’ mediates the interests of all parties
The phenomenon of "peer to peer", or "P2P" file-sharing over the internet is a transglobal expression of techno-social relations. We could say the same about other popular domesticised forms of internet usage, such as email, searches, blogging and photo sharing. However, P2P is different, like the 'special' child who doesn't really fit in with the rest of the family.
This is an attached slide-show (with notes)* from my presentation at The Second IT & Disorder Workshop held at the University of Technology, Sydney, on 26 March 2009. I need to work this up into a paper for publication in a uni e-journal very very soon! But I seem to be more devoted to d/l'ing endless stuff 'for research' from my favourite sites.... Anyway this presentation went well, and I felt i had redeemed myself after 2 really embarrassing presentations late last year.
Once a minor practice in places of privilege in the global North, internet-enabled file-sharing via peer-to-peer (P2P) systems has evolved into a vast, transglobal activity. Engaging millions of participants, P2P is decentralised, deeply networked, grass roots-driven, polycultural phenomenon growing exponentially. It appears uncontainable, as each wave of technological, legal and commercial measures designed to halt or divert it fail. Moreover, pressure exerted 'from above' by governments and multinational industry alliances becomes a productive force within geographically dispersed, globalised P2P networks and communities. Technical and social innovations are generated 'from below' in order to protect and expand “cultures of sharing,” or “piracy.” Paradoxically, these innovations become mainstreamed as they force corporations to adopt new business models in response to 'market' desires.