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click opera - Pirates in the lagoon
February 2010
 
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Wed, Jun. 10th, 2009 02:30 am
Pirates in the lagoon

On Sunday the world's biggest art biennial -- the 53rd Venice Art Biennale -- opened. I'll be there in the flesh at some point before November, but for now I'm depending on the Vernissage TV coverage. Oh, and did I mention I'm sort of in it this year?

A mere week before the biennale opened, Oliver Laric (one of the artists behind VVORK) asked me to make a new commentary track for his video piece Versions (warning: containing, as it does, a naked humping Madonna, Oliver's video is Not Safe For VVORK). I made an absurd, incomprehensible lecture about the difference between duplication and duplicity (clue: it's pretty similar to the difference between erotica and pornography).



My version of Versions is now being projected (as part of a "collateral event" organised by Miltos Manetas, a thing called The Internet Pavilion) in a corridor in the Magazzini del Sale, an old salt depot located between the Venezia Guggenheim and the flashy new Punta della Dogana Museum. The salt depot, a squat-turned-official, has been hosting lefty-anarchist events featuring Toni Negri and Claire Fontaine. They got raided on Monday by the Italian police because Swedish copyright activists Pirate Bay were giving away books, records and films there. (Update: this statement is corrected by a member of Pirate Bay in the comments section.)

I declared my support for Pirate Bay a couple of months back, when the filesharers were handed down prison sentences and hefty fines by a lower Swedish court. They're currently appealing, but the judgement is now seen to have been an epic fail on the part of the Swedish authorities, raising the Pirates' profile and swelling the ranks of their supporters. This week their official wing, the Pirate Party, won 7.1% of Swedish votes in the European elections, ensuring them a seat in the European parliament and the chance to push officially their agenda of deregulating copyright, abolishing the patent system, and reducing internet surveillance.

Italian newspaper Il Gazzettino reported the police raid on Pirate Bay's Venice "collateral event" and quoted a government bod calling the action by these "pirates in the lagoon" "a very serious and harmful initiative". A video by one of Manetas' other artists, Aleksandra Domanovic, caught the Pirate Bay spirit better: a model town in a lagoon catches fire as the chords from Brecht's song The Ballad of Pirate Jenny play in what sounds like a cheap, freely-downloaded MIDI version.

It's appropriate, then, that I should end this entry with a piece of self-piracy. The latest Darla compilation, Dr Darla's Magic Music 32-in-1 Hemp Peppermint, features a previously-unheard outtake from the Joemus sessions, a Bond theme-like song (with a time signature change and a Howard Devoto reference!) called Odd Man Out. Follow this link and you can hear Odd Man Out in its entirety, over and over again, for no money whatsoever!

22CommentReplyShare


imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jun. 10th, 2009 12:50 am (UTC)

He's one part Howard Devoto, one part Dr Evil!


ReplyThread Parent
pay_option07
pay_option07
Thu, Jun. 11th, 2009 01:05 pm (UTC)
duplication and duplicity

Marvelous connections and this might be a bit off, but the collection of works by the following gentleman could be considered the"How To" for American rock videos. Remove the language and it could be anywhere!


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Wed, Jun. 10th, 2009 01:21 am (UTC)
Correction

Actually, we we're not giving away books, records or films. Manetas gave away nike gear though, but I think that was a legit viral marketing campaign.

No, we gave away folded paper pyramids (embassies) and balloons (ok, they had a remake of the biennal logo mixed with the pirate bay ship, but c'mon...). So it was kind of absurd when the police stormed the building saying "You cannot have the Pirate Bay here!" and searched the workshop of pyramids and balloons, presumably after these books, records and films there obviously was a rumor about...

Also it's very unclear what it would mean NOT to have the pirate bay there. The poster outside announcing the embassy of piracy had a pirate bay logo on it, but bost of the 17 that made up the project only had a very loose connection to the pirate bay. There were as far as I know no torrents or trackers present at the time of the raid either.

/monki


ReplyThread
oracolodeifont
oracolodeifont
ed.
Wed, Jun. 10th, 2009 06:26 am (UTC)
Re: Correction

hi, i live near the magazzini and came to have a peek the first day but at the time the press conference was planned nothing was happening... (usual sale docks routine).
there was an open wifi network though so I checked my email and went home.

when the other day I read about the finanza raid I couldn't help some laughs because I can only imagine the simple reasonings behind it: another article before the opening said that the pirate bay would be having 'computers from where it was possible to download music, films and everything freely'.

if only they sent the postal police (which is responsible for telecommunications matters): in italy providing internet access to the public without some form of identification is prohibited and punished by the law (that's why you have to leave your id at internet cafès), but probably shutting down the router in time would have been enough even for that.

on a happier note for cyber venetians, venice will be launching the wifi coverage of the city on july 3rd. access will be free for residents and workers, and paid for tourists. obviously you'll be identified to access so forget copyright infringing activities while sipping a spriz in campo santa margherita.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Wed, Jun. 10th, 2009 09:53 am (UTC)
Pirate Bay is "libertarianism" and the pinnacle of Thatcherism

There’s an exhibition about Loompanics books in London at the moment. Underground bibles – how to build bombs, how to steal, grow pot – you can almost see hippy culture turning into a kind of hate-filled Reaganomics. Even in the titles get darker and nasty, suggesting that the revenge we take on society is to be selfish, to rip off those we feel are ripping us off.

Today’s equivalent would be Pirate Bay. It’s not about distribution. Any artist can distribute their work via the net, and decide their fee, but Pirate Bay deny them the choice. Pirate Bay deny control. Pirate Bay is about take take take.

It’s free! Liberty. But free means no-one gets paid. Free is the far end of the High Street scale – beyond sweat shops. Free says that the people creating the ideas and goods are themselves worth nothing.

But we’re cheap. We’re skint. It clouds our politics. We just justify right wing “libertarianism” by using terms like ‘big business’ – as if big business doesn’t employ people, pay taxes, innovate. Everything that anti-society leeches, stale pools, like Pirate Bay don’t.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jun. 10th, 2009 10:12 am (UTC)
Re: Pirate Bay is "libertarianism" and the pinnacle of Thatcherism

Growing pot fills you with hate? Selling things and distributing them freely expresses the same basic evil? Who knew?


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Wed, Jun. 10th, 2009 11:32 am (UTC)
Re: Pirate Bay is "libertarianism" and the pinnacle of Thatcherism

Come on now Momus, that's a feeble, disingenuous response! You yourself on this very blog have noted the direct line from 60s hippyism to 80s thatcherism. You can't deny a strong libertarian undertow to the whole "information is free" ethos. The answer to corporations ripping artists off is surely not everyone ripping artists off, via enablers such as the Pirate Bay. Copyright as we know it may be dead, but replacing it with nothing doesn't help.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jun. 10th, 2009 11:41 am (UTC)
Re: Pirate Bay is "libertarianism" and the pinnacle of Thatcherism

Activism is not an end in itself, it's a process and a debate. In this case it's a neccessary corrective to the greed of copyright extenders. The Pirate Bay / Pirate Party people are making these issues central.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Wed, Jun. 10th, 2009 11:51 am (UTC)
Re: Pirate Bay is "libertarianism" and the pinnacle of Thatcherism

By imposing one price (zero) and distribution structure, Pirate Bay are denying the artist all freedom and control, more than any 'major label' ever did. Creatives are now creating for an audience of invasive sneaks and thieves, not fans or supporters.


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Wed, Jun. 10th, 2009 01:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Pirate Bay is "libertarianism" and the pinnacle of Thatcherism

Almost none of the artists represented by the RIAA/MPAA and other entertainment groups actually have direct control over their releases anyway. Their content is typically owned and controlled by the labels or studios they've signed contracts with. So let's not pretend we're talking about wresting control from artists here, because most of the artists, by choice, have ceded that control to the companies already.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Wed, Jun. 10th, 2009 11:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Pirate Bay is "libertarianism" and the pinnacle of Thatcherism

Pirate Bay is about as 'activist' as the modern urban pot grower and seller, yes. He wants to pay off his Ford Focus. He does not want society to change, he wants it to go away and leave him on his own macho little island. Pirate Bay want copyright to go away, ownership to go away.


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Wed, Jun. 10th, 2009 01:00 pm (UTC)
Re: Pirate Bay is "libertarianism" and the pinnacle of Thatcherism

How is "free information" anywhere near being a distinctly libertarian ethos? Libertarians would say that information is worth whatever the free market will bear, not declare that all information should inherently be free.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Wed, Jun. 10th, 2009 01:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Pirate Bay is "libertarianism" and the pinnacle of Thatcherism

I agree. 'Free' is BEYOND the free market. No-ones work has ANY value at all. By law. Who shall we compare that business model to - the Pharoahs? The pyramids were pretty hippy, man.


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Wed, Jun. 10th, 2009 02:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Pirate Bay is "libertarianism" and the pinnacle of Thatcherism

I'm not sure what your argument is.

But yet another example of big business's anti-innovation is the fact that, instead of finding ways to adapt to "piracy," they've taken a distinctly draconian approach. They assert the sanctity of this supposed ideal market value, but market value has never existed as an ideal. They always had physical means of controlling and limiting piracy. With the advent of cassettes and VHS, these physical means began to disappear. Now everything is 1's and 0's, and industry control has all but evaporated.

In other words, the market hasn't changed at all. Only the technology has. And all industry--supposedly the epicenter of innovation--can do is spin its tires.

The question isn't about whether this analysis does or doesn't justify piracy. I don't think it does one or the other, because that's actually quite beside the point. Piracy is going to happen one way or another, at pretty much the same--or greater--levels than we see right now. The question is, how will industry respond? Will it continue to spin its tires, or will it find and embrace new ways of doing business?


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Wed, Jun. 10th, 2009 12:58 pm (UTC)
Re: Pirate Bay is "libertarianism" and the pinnacle of Thatcherism

"Big business" only innovates if there's immediate profit in it. By that standard, the only innovation worth anything is that which is immediately profitable. Everything else is apt to be rejected by shareholders, who by definition seek profit gains above all else. This is, of course, the primary reason why the development of alternative fuel cell technology for cars has traditionally been brushed aside in America. The shareholders don't care about the fact that an initial outlay of R&D cash would pay back immensely upon the development of a superior alternative energy patent. They want immediate profit, and that's all. In this case, the "big business" profit motive actually stifles innovation.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jun. 10th, 2009 03:17 pm (UTC)

Mail from Aleksandra Domanovic:

hello nick,
i just saw your post on the internet pavilion and pirate bay and i was very glad to see your positive comment on my work!
i read on your blog that you are a fan of von triers dogville, and just wanted to let you know that the model of the town is a 3d visualization of the ground plan from the film
there is more context in the online version of the piece: http://aleksandradomanovic.com/dictumacfactum.html
all the best,
aleksandra


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Wed, Jun. 10th, 2009 03:53 pm (UTC)

Of course piracy is a matter of fact and the issue is how will the industry react, since the marginal cost of all information is approaching zero and digitalisation has made replicas as good as originals but advocates or ideologues of piracy are sometimes so puerile: I wonder if these gentlemen would accept working for no money in their respective industries or as representatives of their political party in Europe. Of course some patents are stopping evolution in software et al but 99% of the phenomenon is about downloading TV series and records from the internet until some of those media will be too unprofitable.


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Wed, Jun. 10th, 2009 10:17 pm (UTC)

Well, I think that too often the debate is made to be about whether information "should" be free or not, when the fact of the matter is that, to a great many people, it "will" be free, whether industries/artists like it or not.

What the discussion should center on--and this is a discussion that the industry largely needs to be having with itself--is how you guide people into the channels that will lead to payment, and what you do to promote payment. There will still be large swathes of the population who procure data via piracy. That has to become an acceptable loss. And in a lot of ways, it is an acceptable loss, because there is no physical object being "stolen." A pure, 100% purchase rate is impossible. The game is now about how piracy can be used to industry's advantage in channeling paying customers through new commercial outlets.

One idea: piracy can be a very effective advertising tool.


ReplyThread Parent
kulicuu
kulicUU
Sat, Jun. 13th, 2009 07:27 pm (UTC)

@krs
This is a very good comment.

It's a difficult financial-logistical problem. Clearly you want to fund further development, and clearly people should be paid if their product is being consumed, even if their product has become abstract, grown wings and replicated. But, how to do that without retarded measures is not a trivial question.
There is an extent to which piracy increases total global productivity; it's the extent to which people gain access to media and tools which they would otherwise not be able to afford--like the comment above about art students and software--and then they use these tools to make some product which becomes available, but could never have come about without that person getting the tools... This is especially big (I think) in the academic/intellectual world... A few years back there was a big push to put as much University stuff online as possible, and I think some of that may have stalled; possibly some variety of competitive advantage analyses from any of a variety of associated viewpoints coming into play. . (As per the software: Some companies have student rates now, which is the right idea. Wolfram does that with Mathematica. Very reasonable.)


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Sun, Jun. 14th, 2009 05:07 am (UTC)

Yeah, I guess the point I'm trying to make is that the industry model by which they seek to "eliminate" piracy altogether is completely irrational, not to mention a total waste of time. Even "student rates" for software, for example, aren't going to completely eliminate piracy of Microsoft Office, Photoshop, etc. But at least it is a compelling way of dealing with one of the many causes of piracy: being strapped for cash.

I believe that the industry is wrong when it argues that its products have inherent value. But even if I agreed with them, we would still be focusing on the wrong point.

An executive at Electronic Arts made a really interesting statement, in response to the spread of a leaked, unfinished copy of "The Sims 3" which spread prior to the game's release date. He basically said that the gamers were seeing what was essentially a really high quality demo, and that his main wish was that it had been released through their website. In no way should this be taken to mean that EA is thrilled that their game leaked prior to release ... of course, they're not going to be thrilled. But it's refreshing to see a company for once exhibit excitement about the fact that reportedly millions of copies of an unfinished game were downloaded, to see possibilities in that kind of illicit public demand, instead of taking a reflexive, violated stance.


ReplyThread Parent
fishwithissues
fishwithissues
jordan fish
Fri, Jun. 12th, 2009 01:54 pm (UTC)

i like the dr. bronner's-inspired design of the comp.


ReplyThread
childreninlove
childreninlove
Mon, Jun. 15th, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC)
i am ready to listen

Unfortunately, the follow this link for the Odd Man Out appears to no longer function. Another way to listen to it is through Dr Darla's link, only that the song ends abruptly, right at the time signature change.


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