Piracy and economic plurality

Plenary lecture with Ramon Lobato (Swinburne University of Technology)
10/04, 16h15, DMLL Seminar Room

One of the challenges involved in thinking seriously about piracy is the wide range of activities, engagements and transactions that fall under this banner. From communitarian filesharing to copyright-infringing political communication to commercial bootlegging, piracy comes in many shapes, sizes and ideological inflections. Consequently, any credible analysis of piracy’s ‘economic effects’ – a topic long characterised by overheated rhetoric about profit leakage on the one hand and new-economy innovation on the other – requires a differentiated vocabulary for thinking about the relationship between consumers, media objects, and distribution networks. This paper, which draws on material from the forthcoming book The Informal Media Economy (Lobato and Thomas), is an attempt to revisit the issue of ‘effects’ from the viewpoint of economic plurality. Moving through a series of contrasting examples – including systems that variously cannibalise, complement, ignore and extend formal media markets – we will consider the diverse ways that pirate systems interact with established distribution models for film, television and digital media. In this way, we can also catch glimpses of something larger: the tango of mutual influence between formal and informal worlds.

Ramon Lobato is Senior Research Fellow at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne. His research explores how screen media circulates — legally and illegally. Key publications include the books Shadow Economies of Cinema: Mapping Informal Film Distribution (BFI, 2012) and The Informal Media Economy (Polity, 2015, with Julian Thomas).

Panel 1

10/04, 10h, DMLL Seminar Room

The Pirate Cinema
Nicolas Maigret

The hidden activity and geography of real-time peer-to-peer file sharing via BitTorrent is revealed in The Pirate Cinema an online piece by Nicolas Maigret. In this monitoring room, omnipresent telecommunications surveillance gains a global face, as the program plunders the core of restless activity online, revealing how visual media is consumed and disseminated across the globe. This live work produces an arbitrary mash-up of the BitTorrent files being exchanged in real time, based on the traffic of the Pirate Bay’s top100 videos. These fragmentary contents in transit are monitored, transforming BitTorrent network users (unknown to them) into contributors to an endless audio-visual composition. http://thepiratecinema.com/installation/

The Pirate Cinema Read Me
Maria Roszkowska and Nicolas Maigret

“The Pirate Cinema Read Me” is a work in progress planned for fall 2015. This publication offers a critical view on piracy wars and multiple feedbacks between contemporary issues and historical piracy facts. This book structured in three parts, starts with “The Pirate Cinema” art piece and expands on broader issues raised by the project (historical and modern anti-piracy technologies + anti-piracy trials, geo-specific issues, piracy sub-scenes, main releasing standards, warez release procedure, suppliers methods, online piracy in numbers…). http://thepiratecinema.com/book/

Tropa(s) de Elite​: of the forms created within informal media
Gabriel Menotti

A particular plasticity of informal media is brought forth by works such as The Pirate Cinema (Nicolas Maigret) and The Piracy Project (AND Publishing), which highlight the formal effects of lo-fi, partial, or unsupervised reproduction processes. Traces of the circumstances of copying let themselves be shown in the copies, underlining their difference from a purported original and sometimes from one another. Seen in a positive light, this heterogeneity implies that reproduction entails forms of labour able to generate aesthetic singularities. This paper take this hypothesis further in an exploration of the limits of piracy as poeisis, turning to the sequels of the blockbuster Tropa de Elite (José Padilha, 2007) that were created within the informal market. Resulting from gestures of extreme appropriation, the existence of these counterfeit titles reveals a paradox of current media circuits, in equal measures predictable and unreliable. By analysing what these works may accomplish symbolically, I mean to examine how the consistence of the movie both as a media entity and a visual commodity is built in relation to its surroundings.

Panel 2

10/04, 12h15, DMLL Seminar Room

Torrentocracy: Archival chivalry and piratical honourability
Jonas Andersson Schwarz

Using my own empirical research on file sharing communities and everyday file sharer justification, I explore a range of sociological observations, reflecting the human tendency to form social clusters and draw up normative boundaries. Taking the phenomenon of private BitTorrent trackers and their auxiliary online communities into consideration, I explore how boundaries of membership, status, taste, and individual norm are policed.

There is more to file sharing than The Pirate Bay. Private tracker communities are covert archives that often excel in quality and depth, yet—due to their clandestine nature, enforced due to the rigidity of presently surrounding copyright regimes—they remain far from utopian, far from public even, since far from everyone would have the social capital and technical skill to access them.

In my presentation, I will delve on issues of charismatic authority, the formation of sociotechnical fields, and the emergence of de facto hierarchical structures in an allegedly heterarchical environment. One of my key arguments is the necessity to treat file sharer motivation with appropriate levels of critical concern; here, the academic field of critical media studies should serve as a guiding light. If media consumers are increasingly becoming (co)producers and (co)distributors as well, these latter roles entail a power dimension; the power to influence, and the power to build and maintain infrastructure. At what point does these forms of power become significant enough to be worthy of adequate critical investment among sociologists of digital life?

Show & Tell: the ‘S.o.S’ Piratebox & Beyond
Oliver Lerone Schultz and Adnan Hadzi

“Show & Tell: the ‘S.o.S’ piratebox & beyond” presents the reflections of the journey of the ‘S.o.S’ piratebox, a research hosted and interlinked with work-and-research structures of the Brazil Besides the Screen conference, the Istanbul Video Vortex event, the reSync Athens workshop, and finally the Berlin Transmediale festival. Materials were loaded onto a research-black-box (Pirate-Box) that could & can accumulate and ‘commonize’ critical material, travel and be presented at any place in any time.

In perspective we aimed at two ways to make these ‘pre-syncs’ valuable for future common use:
1: restreet, AWMN and local knowledge commons production: we were collectively thinking about ways to network and share the material in ways useful to pre-existing local structures
2: The ‘Glossary of Subsumption : collective edition’ will be a longer-term project creating critical collective characterizations of new forms of ‘integrative power’ and ‘value extraction’ in the post-media age.

Gambiarra culture in Brazil and its impact on Piracy
H.D. Mabuse

There is in Brazil a “culture of improvisation” that leads to finding solutions to the everyday problems based on the ability of reinvention and resignifying artifacts and techniques. By the practice called “Gambiarra” usually occurs reframing of the uses of industrial products, eventually in precarious situations, but often with a high degree of sophistication. The aim of this paper is to investigate what effect this cultural practice has to piracy concept in the country.