What's with the Pirate Movement's attachment to the Counterculture?

Quick reflection. The Pirate Bay trial, which has been called the internet piracy trial of the decade, has just started here in Stockholm. In response, the site and its allies have started a site where they ridicule the trial, posting funny internet videos and live-blogging the inept prosecution. On one allied blog the trial is simultaneously being reimagined as absurdist theatre.

It's at times, I grant, interesting, powerful and funny. But it totally reeks of the counterculture of the sixties, to the extent that you have to wonder whether nothing interesting has happened in the intervening years. The terminology of "spectacle" for the supposed show-trial, the détournement of the plays and films and the frequent mention of the Neue Sloweniche Kunst is taken straight out of the Situationist International handbook. The anti-copyright community used to talk about sampling and diversity, but now they've coalesced into this utopian movement and totally gone back to ideology.

I kind of wonder what to make of it all. At one level you kinda have to hope it's a deliberate send-up of the traditional "new left", before we started caring about post-colonial perspectives, feminism and identity issues, but I'm afraid at least part of it is serious. I'm fairly sure the whole thing is being orchestrated by Rasmus Fleicher, who quite frankly is the only one of the pirate lot with serious academic depth. I quite like his thinking on a lot of issues, and his blog is well worth reading (though alas in Swedish), but he's certainly the type that would ignore newer developments in the left. Academically entrenched. Very orientated towards western thought and history. Pro-Israeli. Likes IDM and electronica.

It's all a bit of a shame because the anti-copyright movement has the potential to be a key part in the struggle against oppression. Today we should be acknowledging the history of free re-use in riddims and cultural exchanges and their potential power, working for the free expression and representation of all oppressed groups, letting kids (not academics!) run free on Youtube. Instead we're stuck with an overwhelmingly white-male-led movement which increasigly creeps towards '68. It's a bit disconcerting.

I would still vote for them in the EP elections, mind, if it wasn't for the worthier FI.


Anonymous said...

Your characteristics both of my blog, and of Piratbyrån, is still puzzling me.
Oriented towards western thought, compared to what? While copyright criticism in general has indeed been to a large extent marked by a heritage from American thought, Piratbyrån is rather oriented towards some combination of ex-Yugoslavia, Germany and India (to judge from our factual international relations).
And this phrase "Pro-Israeli" I really try to understand, but can't. Copyriot wrote a couple of pieces 2,5 years ago which expressed a strong stance in favour of Israel's right to exist, as if that was something very significant. Since then, I don't even think that the country of Israel has been mentioned on the blog, so I really wonder how you motivate the characteristics, which rather sounds like an ungrounded attempt to imply that Copyriot would support current policies of Israeli governments. With the same logic, it would indeed be more reasonable to label Copyriot as "Pro-Serbian", as Copyriot has written much more about Serbia than about Israel. But still, you do not. Why? I am really, really, curious!

(Btw, I also hope for the FI to be successful in the European elections. You seem to imply that I am connected to the Pirate Party, which is definitely not the case.)

Birdseed said...

I think you've had to discuss the pro-israeli thing quite a lot haven't you? Rest assured I don't think it's as heinous a thing as many in the Swedish left would, I know a lot of honourable lefties from an international perspective who're definitely pro-israeli. The image I was trying to convey, which I'm not sure is accurate, is that of someone vaguely in the american 1990s liberal tradition, a kind of slightly-aloof-yet-kind art-left. Again, nothing wrong with that (I've got plenty of friends who are part of it too), but I just like to see more post-colonial, feminist, minority, pro-working-class-expression perspectives as well.

ripley said...

I agree with you (late to the party) that critical copyright has something to offer actual radical change, but it is devilishly hard to get most critical copyright scholars and activists to see it. Most of the time they collapse into some Berkman Center "digital natives" stuff, or some free market, liberal individualist hand-waving about how competition or lack of interference will allow the best to rise to the top..

When I asked Palfrey whether the lessons learned from studying youth & tech as "digital natives" whose entrance into "our schools" and society should be made easier, and respected, etc etc, might have any connection to the struggles of other groups historically kept out of elite institutions he was basically like "I never thought of that."

Birdseed said...

Definitely an angle worth playing up. After all, those who have resources are hardly affected by copyright laws barring their access to information.

On the other hand, funnily enough the pirate movement seems to have plenty of awareness of third world agency. I'm not sure if you've seen the documentary Good Copy, Bad Copy, which is available free online, but that has some excellent sections on Tecnobrega and Nollywood films. They're just never connected to the rest in an interesting way!