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...


  1. Hey there, long time listener, first time caller!

    I can't help but comment on this one because first of all, I can't see how this can ever be stopped anyway. Let me get back to that point in a sec. It seems to me though that ISP's aren't that concerned about torrents at the moment. I figure that they believe as I do that despite whatever efforts those in the corporate world may try to overpower the 'underground' internet network, it will always exist and create new innovative ways to rebel. So where Limewire once was, new ways of finding free movies, music, etc are now available. The lay public is now educated in torrents...which I think now, are here to stay for a whilst. ISP's seem occassionally to say things publicly, but don't really ever take action against those who use torrents. I guess the problem that my legal eagle friend tells me is that if you take one person to court, you'll need to take everyone otherwise it looks prejudicial. I don't particularly know about that, but...

    So I suppose like Foucault says, where there is power there is also resistance. ISP's know that this is always going to be the case. What more however, I think they draw some power of it themselves with the way (esp here in Australia) they charge for download limits. Why else would people need 100GB plus a month of capacity??

  2. Hey Nicko, I agree. ISP's don't really care because they cash in either way. ISP's make money in others ways through torrents: there are whole threads on forums dedicated to 'port forwarding' (how to make your internet run faster) ISP's slow down your service because its better for them...but that's a whole other story.

    For me its the media copy-write laws and protection of their media assets that is most interesting because torrents are a way to by-pass traditional hierarchies of power (if that's the word we want to use) and actual proof that people are looking for " new ways of doing old stuff". And you're right - its here to stay, so how is the media industry going change to keep up with their consumers new ways? Now all downloaders are paying for is the GB limit but what is the future going to look like when the industry starts its own torrent engine (which is what I believe they will do.)