Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why old rules don't count in a new (networked) world: Pirate Bay re-opens for business despite loss in court.

While I can't profess to know the in’s and out’s of "The Pirate Bay" case it really doesn't surprise me. The reason I say this is that all my research on user participation within the world "Second Life" over the last four years has illustrated intense cases of collaboration, which resists all forms of authority. It is the community that is the authority:

"Interaction in a ‘virtual’ sense has been uniquely smuggled into the design of technology. The implicit relationships between technology and participation have dealt with interaction as part of the technological experience of devices or alternately a by-product of the spatial field that technology itself has produced (Dourish 2006). The technological device is more often than not the dominant discourse within production fields and this dominance inadvertently neglects the users’ local level of participation (McCarthy and Wright 2004: 10-11 see Technology as experience). The user plays a unique role in co-producing the device or artifact and their interaction with it aligns context and meaning which is not present when the device is dormant. Therefore it is the ‘in situ’ use of the digital artifact, which potentially provides it with more meaning and illustrates the contextual grounding it needs to be significant. Importantly why the device exists is not necessarily the most significant context but instead what ‘uses’ or actions the device makes possible." (excerpt from Eryn Grant’s PhD Thesis)

To put this into perspective for this case, I believe the institutions of law need to look carefully at the community of users and what community interactions are making torrents possible. If they truly want to disable torrents they first must disable community collaboration. It is the human social technology, which is the driving force behind the tech conduit.

In the case of "The Pirate Bay" the community of users is tech savvy and has already shown an extreme resistance to the ideas of copy-write law by sharing music, books, movies, games and software. The design of mass international sharing of illegally distributed content means the end users are protected from enforcement from law agencies. There are just too many people to catch. The site itself has closed yet has re-opened on another url with all content available.

These old ways of copyright protection just aren't suited to the new network of collaborative sharing. The system needs to be changed to account for user behaviours, which consistently defies current rules and systems. Media industries need to be at the forefront of this change so they don't miss out on cashing in. If you can't beat 'em join 'em...