Pirates who threaten to invert power relations through appropriating things less tangible than ships and bodies have become a growing concern for the managers of twenty-first-century economic globalization. Appropriating, modifying and sharing a range of less concrete but equally crucial objects, intellectual property “robbers” today traffic in images, music, and software. Although business analysts regard this as a novel problem, supposedly precipitated by the unprecedented importance of “knowledge” as a force of economic production, historians of science and law tell stories of intellectual property theft that predate the current IPR discourse by two centuries. Anti-piracy discourses now frequently intersect with anti-terrorist security discourses, where both pirates and terrorists function as threats to free markets and civilized nations. Clearly, even while it participates in a longer history, the current discourse of piracy is specific to our present historical and economic moment, and illuminates particular characteristics of the emerging forms of global informational capitalism. What forms of globalized citizenship and personhood are being shaped via the emerging legal discourses of intellectual property, on both sides of the struggle for access to new forms of information? In Studies in Unauthorized Reproduction: The Pirate Function and Postcolonialism, I read the 21st-century debate over “sharing,” “openness,” and “freedom” in software, music, and film not as an entirely unique and unprecedented moment, but rather, via a genealogical understanding of its legal, cultural, and political economic conditions of enunciation.
Interlocutors: Lou Silhol-Macher, Vincente Perez, and Jaclyn Zhou
Moderated by Abigail De Kosnik
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