2015 – Coventry, Panel 3

10/04, 14h30, DMLL Seminar Room

Piracy and Access to Educational Materials in Rio de Janeiro:
Shadow Libraries and Beyond
Pedro Mizukami, Jhessica Reia & Joe Karaganis

In this paper we present partial results from the Brazilian component of a multi-country, multi-institution project on the ecology of access to educational materials in developing countries, and the emergence of “shadow libraries” of content maintained and curated by students and professors. As part of the broader project, we compared the practices of access, consumption, and sharing of educational materials — textbooks, academic papers, books, etc. — to those related to other types of media.

We found that permanence is a feature rarely built into the design of these libraries, in contrast to the pirate archives for film, music and other media content. Shadow libraries are usually fragile, ad hoc, and created according to the specific circumstances, practices, and necessities of institutions, students, and professors. Our analysis also describes the interactions between individual and collective archives, the potential displacement of Virtual Learning Environments by social media, the impact of the rise of streaming services on archival practices, and the role of educational policy in the creation of these collections.

The research is grounded on a survey with Medicine, Communication and Law students in the city of Rio de Janeiro, complemented by qualitative research. Three focus groups were carried out with students from the aforementioned fields, as well as in-depth semi-structured interviews with professors, librarians, publishers, and government representatives.

Reimagining Film History Through Piracy:
Reflections on the Case of Budget Films, 1975
Paul McDonald

From the earliest years of film, producers and distributors have regularly alleged moving images have been used is a multiplicity of ways without their authorization (Decherny, 2012; Johns, 2011; Segrave, 2003). Recognizing piracy as endemic to – rather than a deviation from – media cultures (Lobato, 2012), challenges the foundations of film history, which conventionally has been almost entirely restricted to charting the legally authorized sphere of production, distribution and exhibition. However, the persistence of piracy foregrounds the need to reimage film historiography through constructing what will be described as a ‘shadow’ history of moving images.

To focus this argument, the paper takes the case of Budget Films, an LA-based licensed sub-distributor indicted in 1975 for the unauthorized sale and duplication of prints to South Africa. Part of a major crackdown on film piracy by federal authorities, Budget became a landmark case for it was the first time that criminal charges were brought against individuals for film and television piracy. Furthermore, the case became a show(biz) trial, for Hollywood was put on the stand as senior studio executives and high profile actors were called to give testimony. Although receiving considerable attention in the trade press at the time, neither the Budget case, nor the larger business of print piracy of which it was a part, features in histories of American film.

What is interesting about Budget is how the case gives a concrete example for reflecting on the gains and challenges arising from reimagining film history through piracy. In particular, the paper uses Budget to explore three issues: conceptualizing the workings of illegal enterprise, mapping the shifting geography of transnational flows in unauthorized reproduction, and how to periodize changes in what Castells and Cardoso (2012) call ‘piracy cultures’.

Pirate Capitalism: The Theory and Practice of Monstrosity
Gary Hall

In The Enemy of All, an account of the shifting place of piracy in the history of legal and political thought, Daniel Heller-Roazen shows that to be counted within what the Roman philosopher Cicero terms the ‘immense fellowship of the human species’, one is required to ‘belong to a community tied, like the Roman polity, to clearly delimited territory’. In other words, one needs to live precisely ‘a sedentary life on land’. If one does not do this, if one has a more fluid life – say, at sea – then one is at risk of being considered a pirate, this being one name for those whom we cannot necessarily treat as proper political adversaries. ‘For a pirate is not included in the number of lawful enemies’, as Cicero puts it, ‘but is the common enemy of all’. In fact, according to the theory of monstrosity of the 17th century philosopher Francis Bacon, as ‘the common enemy of human society’ pirates are deserving of extermination. Of course, today, it is multinational corporations that do not belong to a community tied to a clearly delimited territory and that remain stateless. Moreover, some of them (with a little help from the Swiss banks), have proceeded to use their statelessness to avoid paying taxes in the UK – and have been dubbed ‘pirate capitalists’ because of it.

In this talk for Besides the Screen 2015: Piracy in Theory and Practice, I will show some of the ‘practical’ screen-based ‘pirate’ projects I am involved with, projects that are indeed often fluid and liquid in nature. I will also explain some of the ‘theory’ behind these projects: why a number of activist scholar collaborators, including myself, are willing to risk being considered monstrous as a result of acting something like ‘pirate philosophers’ in a context where it is multinational corporations who now appear to be ‘the common enemy of all’.