Ars Electronica 2007
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Piracy, Privacy and Tought Control

' Jaromil Jaromil

This text focuses on the progressive intrusion of anti-piracy campaigns into the privacy of citizens worldwide.

In the market of digital devices, business corporations have already been betraying Smith’s openness at its roots for several decades when confronted with the dynamicity of digital developments. A few major holdings build restricted mobile objects sold worldwide: software development and distribution to the masses is accessible only for their business partners, while users are only granted the right to choose from pre-designed mobile phones and gadgets. Nowadays such mobile communication devices constitute the biggest global network, mainly used by citizens for private communication.

Still, the laws of free trade dictate that when you exchange money for the purchase of any item, that item belongs to you with no strings attached.

But these mobile devices are not completely under the control of their legitimate owners: it is not clear what the software running on them is doing and, with the rise of “trusted computing” technologies, the possibility to run homebrew applications is denied.

The mobile communication market is not open and doesn’t even allow real competition, even though it is related to cultural, political and social developments worldwide. Such a monopoly enforces a form of colonialism for information technology: there is no possibility for local artisans to interact independently with the architectures, intervene on communication infrastructures, adapt them to their own needs and create small scale bazaars in which such modifications can be sold or shared with others.
Piracy does not simply exist because there are bloody-minded people who don’t care for the rules and laws of the civilized world. It tends to emerge whenever there is a hegemonic power that asserts itself by establishing a trade monopoly. A monopoly, by its very nature, cuts out competition by other traders and destroys existing means of trade. People deprived of their traditional way of making a living resort to criminal activity. The hegemonic power, itself not averse to using violence to force others into submission, considers itself to be the law and defines others’ activity as piracy.
Armin Medosch on Piratology

Another interesting quote from Trade Secrets: Intellectual Piracy and the Origins of American Industrial Power by Doron S. Ben-Atar:
During the first decades of America’s existence as a nation, private citizens, voluntary associations, and government officials encouraged the smuggling of European inventions and artisans to the New World. These actions openly violated the intellectual property regimes of European nations. […] What fueled 19th century American boom was a dual system of principled commitment to an intellectual property regime combined with absence of commitment to enforce these laws. This ambiguous order generated innovation by promising patent monopolies. At the same time, by declining to crack down on technology pirates, it allowed for rapid dissemination of innovation that made American products better and cheaper.

Now, coming to the issue of our privacy as citizens: contemporary societies are becoming more and more strict about enforcing the aforementioned intellectual property regimes, as clearly outlined in the IPRED2, the second “Intellectual Property Rights” Enforcement Directive proposed on July 12, 2005 by the Commission of the European Communities.

Such enforcement moves towards the “privatization of justice” delivering to copyright holdings a direct role in investigations for copyright violations: information about citizens can be collected and used by private corporations, in marketing surveys and other uses not even explicitly authorized, in clear contradiction to article 8 of the EU convention.

While the governments drop their role in justice enforcement, accepting the fact that information infrastructures are ruled by global corporations, “community oriented” technologies rapidly develop following the trend of Web 2.0, collecting huge amounts of private data about citizens worldwide.