The Pirate Google Sets Sail

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It should come as no surprise that many of the artists and new media practitioners regularly featured on this site rely on illegal file sharing for the content and tools used to make their work. Last week the four operators of the major torrent tracking site, The Pirate Bay, were brought up on criminal charges by the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry), representing a group of intellectual copyright holders, and were sentenced by the Swedish court to a year in prison and a $3.5 million fine after a much publicized trial. In the wake of these trials, a mysterious cyber activist and defender of internet neutrality launched The Pirate Google, a website that limits Google searches to the previously indexed torrent files. It's an act that throws more smoke in the face of the politically and economically biased charges, as Google's indexing system has long allowed access to knowingly copyrighted material, while Google-owned YouTube hosts it directly.

In an email, the creator of the site told us that while Google has attempted to block inbound searches from The Pirate Google, he or she did not feel it would be possible for the IFPI or the corporate giant to take legal action, as they don't advertise and don't profit from the site. Its purpose is simply to raise issues of complicity and complexity in hosting and defining illegal materials. In this sense, the site is as much collaborative art piece as technological utility, as it seeks to undermine the advancement of institutional leaders, be it established museum, gallery, or artist, in favor of the disenfranchised. And who doesn’t love a good Damn The Man collaboration now and then? Masked defender, we salute you.

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IM AFRAID PEOPLE WILL STEAL MY IDEAS (2009) - Jordan Rhoat

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Lewis Hyde Profiled in the New York Times Magazine

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This past Sunday the New York Times Magazine profiled Lewis Hyde, a writer and poet whose 1983 book The Gift described the value of art and literature in a market system as "the commerce of the creative spirit." Now a fellow Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Hyde is at work on a book that attempts to define how the market of cultural property should be regulated. Excerpts below, see link at the bottom for the full article.

In the late 1990s, Hyde began extending his lifelong project of examining "the public life of the imagination" into what had become newly topical territory: the "cultural commons." The advent of Internet file-sharing services like Napster and Gnutella sparked urgent debates over how to strike a balance between public and private claims to creative work. For more than a decade, the so-called Copy Left -- a diverse group of lawyers, activists, artists and intellectuals -- has argued that new digital technologies are responsible for an unprecedented wave of innovation and that excessive legal restrictions should not be placed on, say, music remixes, image mashups or "read-write" sites like Wikipedia, where users create their own content. The Copy Left, or the "free culture movement," as it is sometimes known, has articulated this position in part by drawing on the tradition of the medieval agricultural commons, the collective right of villagers, vassals and serfs -- "commoners" -- to make use of a plot of land. This analogy is also central to Hyde's book in progress, which looks closely at how the tradition of the commons was transformed once it was brought from Europe to America.

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Hyde posits that the history of the commons and of the creative self are, in fact, twin histories. "The citizen called into being by a republic of freehold farms," he ...

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Copy That!

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A new copyright-related exhibition curated by Inke Arns and Francis Hunger, of Hartware MedienKunstVerein, in Dortmund (DE), has one heck of a title: "Anna Kournikova Deleted By Memeright Trusted System: Art in the Age of Intellectual Property." Then again, it sounds like a heck of a show. The first piece visitors will see when they enter the HMKV exhibition space is a video by Negativland and Tim Maloney, called Gimme the Mermaid, in which Disney's Little Mermaid character is seen shouting, "You can't use it without my permission...I'm gonna sue your ass!" The exhibit, which runs July 19-October 19 is part of a larger initiative called "Work 2.0: Copyright and Creative Work in the Digital Age," which includes a iRights.info, web-based research project exploring new labor relations emerging in this litigious era; and a September 26-28 symposium on "Creative Work and Copyright." The show features a good mix of established artists in that field as well as others from the world of fine art and media production, including Christophe Bruno, Nate Harrison, John Heartfield, Kembrew McLeod, Monochrom, Alexei Shulgin + Aristarkh Chernyshev, Cornelia Sollfrank, Stay Free, UBERMORGEN.COM + Alessandro Ludovico + Paolo Cirio, and others. The show's title is plucked from a short story by participating artist David Rice who writes of a time in the future when stars' brands are maintained by laserbeam-armed satellites who snuff out unauthorized copycats. In the story, the "real" tennis star Anna Kournikova is accidentally misrecognized as a fake and "deleted" by the system. These sorts of sci-fi narratives always provide a touchstone for public fears and fantasies about the future, particularly in relationship to technology. This exhibition emerges from a contemporary context in which the development of new technologies that make copying easier have led to unprecedentedly stringent ...

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