Introduction to the Future of Piracy Series

[Editor’s note:  be sure to check the next part of this series The Future of the Technology of Piracy Part I: Anonymity]

To predict the future is a rather bold thing to attempt.  I’m not actually such a bold person and because of this I’ll be a bit more circumspect in what I mean by “predicting the future.”  I’m not talking in certainties but in impressions of mine based on general experience and knowledge of what is developing on and off line on the subject of piracy.

My contention throughout this series is going be that there will always be piracy.  I believe there are historical precedents to support this claim and that existing examples from the past can be appealed to for the management of piracy.  We will also need to consider that the question of piracy is not a simplistic one (not a mere question of right or wrong) but one that betrays humanity’s need to adapt to its own techniques.

The future of piracy can be described from many angles, initially in rather broad terms.  Its future has technological, legal, political, economic, cultural and sociological aspects.  And so I’m going to dedicate a number of articles to this ‘future of piracy’.

But first a few words of introduction about each of the main angles from which piracy can be looked at:

Technology

As for technology; the internet’s technology is piracy’s technology.  When you think of “how” piracy happens, it works just the same way as all transactions on the web do; by data flowing from one address to another.  These transactions can take many forms — email, chat message, voice calls, encrypted messages, file transfers to and from a server, bittorrent, streaming video or audio from a server, etc.

The future of piracy technology then is the future of internet technology.   My prognostications will centre around what forms of technology we expect to be seeing in use for piracy.

As I see it, the future of piracy is to be determined by its use of three chief characteristics: its  anonymity,  its distribution, and their monetization. (See the briefings on each of these characteristics of piracy.)

Legal/Political/Economic

Historically the law has always been chasing behind piracy unable to catch it up or to quell it to any solid degree.  This has been due to the new technologies the net uses and to the anomalous position of the Internet as a phenomenon. The Internet is not owned, it is global, and so can be characterised as being anarchic.

Piracy is primarily a commercial proposition regardless of whether it is offered gratis or subscribed. The law has protections for Trademarks, Copyrights, Designs, Patents, which cover most of the items of commercial value available.  The law has traditionally protected holders of these forms of Intellectual Property against those who would seek to trespass on them.  I shall be looking at the different kinds of Intellectual Property separately elsewhere.

The Law has means to require removal of offers of pirated goods and services from those places online and offline in which they are advertised. The chief of these online is DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act], supported by a Federal Bill and it is binding on all US-based websites and their service providers.

Economically-speaking there is a moot question whether or not piracy and its analogues assists or harms National Productivity (in its own terms of wealth-creation and material standards of living).

Certainly pirates etc do not pay taxes, and so revenues are lost to the State and the Union; and so politically piracy and so on is generally anathema to government, which has been constantly attempting ways via use of law and other tools of curbing the flow of piracy online and in fact pressing for land grabs that would place political/economic controls on the web.

In the light of recent revelations from the NSA and from Chelsea Manning the political use of the Internet in Foreign Affairs compounds and complicates the role of governments in their attempts to control and monitor commerce and converse on the net.

Cultural and Social

The cultural and social aspects of piracy in many ways are the most promising and interesting ones for the future. They are what we are about. Of course they are linked to economic and technological factors, but it is the ways of doing business and of exchanging data, and their underlying presuppositions which condition the cultural/social angles of piracy.

These presuppositions include the ‘four legs good; two legs bad’ approach to what is right and wrong in business life; to what is lawful and what unlawful; what is beneficial to society and what harmful; or in one’s best interest or to one’s detriment; in sum a whole system of ethics often with by rote suppositions which we contend do not make the most of today’s burgeoning technological world.

Indeed the key to delineating new possibilities presenting new ways of doing business we understand lies in our being able to free ourselves of these presuppositions, and so opening scope to think radically and find new solutions to today’s dilemmas exemplified by, for example, the standard adversarial relations of Pirate versus Holder.

The motivations of the one, The Holder, as against those of the other: The Pirate, are those in question. Our assumption is that when two work together or are not at odds, more is achieved and a better result is obtained

Our declared aims then, are to explore possibilities for new ways of doing business; of monetising commercial property. In doing this we aim to offer what we believe are ways of approach to making better business relationships in future. In doing this we encourage revisions of standard views of business and social interaction and of cultural outlook.

In the next article in the series we look at the ways in which piracy is being achieved and particularly its use of anonymity across the web as protection for its users from discovery and reprisals.  We look at where web anonymity is heading and what its technologies hold for the future.

[NOTE:  Everything in bold will be a future article.]

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