Pirate Philosophy investigates some of the implications of so-called internet piracy for the humanities, particularly the latter’s ideas of authorship, scholarly writing and publishing, intellectual property, copyright law, fair use, content creation and cultural production. As its title suggests, it explores such ideas philosophically, but it explores them legally, too, through the creation of an actual ‘pirate’ text.
What’s happening is a text called ‘Pirate Philosophy Version 1.0’ was published as the opening essay to the 10th edition of the Culture Machine journal, which itself had the theme of Pirate Philosophy. However, this text was available there for a limited period only. After two months it was placed on a torrent search engine and directory as ‘Pirate Philosophy Version 2.0’ and the original deleted from the Culture Machine site. As soon as someone downloaded the torrented version – which actually happened on the same day I made it available, 25 May, 2009 – the original file was destroyed. So there is now no ‘original’ or ‘master’ copy of this text in the conventional sense. Instead, it exists only to the extent that it’s part of a ‘pirate network’ and is 'stolen' or ‘pirated’. From 25 May 2009 on, all copies of this text have been ‘pirate’ copies. (Originally placed on the Mininova torrent directory, ‘Pirate Philosophy Version 2.0’ is currently available from AAAAARG.ORG, Alive Torrents, Torrentslib, and Torrentzap, among other places.)
The idea is to raise questions around issues of authorship, the proper name, the signature, attribution, publication, citation, copyright, content creation and so on. For example, what does it mean to publish a ‘pirated’ copy of this text? In other words, what does it mean for me to have placed the first version of the opening essay to Culture Machine’s Pirate Philosophy issue on a peer-to-peer network, making it available for anyone not only to read, download, copy and share without charge, but also to remix, reformat, reversion, reinvent and reuse as ‘Pirate Philosophy Version 2.0’? Having destroyed the original version of my text, the only version that can subsequently publish is a pirated version that has been circulated - and potentially authored and edited - distributively. But what if I do then publish a ‘pirated’ version in an academic journal or book as ‘Pirate Philosophy Version 3.0’? What if the only version of 'Pirate Philosophy' that can be included in the Media Gifts book is a version that’s been disseminated - and potentially authored and edited - distributively? How does that affect our ideas of the academic author? Of scholarly writing and publishing? Of attribution? Accreditation? Intellectual property? Content creation? Of the university professor?