Pirates of the Amazon


Some creep just sent a legal threat to the lab where I work because a student bittorrented some software for research. Which is one reason why I was so happy to hear about this project (which, it turns out, was itself threatened and taken down by another legal department only one day after launch). 

Last week, two M.A. students from the Piet Zwart Institute went live with the Firefox Application Pirates of the Amazon which placed a "Download 4 Free" link on top of Amazon product pages directing users to .torrent tracker files for the item from the Pirate Bay. The project was intended as a parodic commentary on e-commerce and the distribution of information and products online. After one day of activity, Amazon sent a legal notice requesting that they take it down, and the students complied. Even with this retraction, Pirates of the Amazon received a vehemently oppositional reaction when blogged on digg and CNET, and now the students are using the original project website to document these discussions. According to a recent post to the mailing list nettime, professor Florian Cramer and open source programmer Jaromil, who supervised the project, are seeking statements of support for Pirates of the Amazon. While legal action will not be taken against the students, Cramer and Jaromil want to enlist support in the face of the conservative tone found on the digg and CNET threads. Considering how much labor, outreach, and discussion has occurred around issues of copyright and the distribution of information over the past few years, the comments (which range from "That’s just evil" to "Oh for god sakes can crooks be any more pathetic") are difficult to believe. If anything, they signal the need for more work to be done in the fight for free culture. For those who would like to submit a statement of support, contact mail [AT] pirates-of-the-amazon.com. (rhizome.org)

ACTA Draft Leak

Cory Doctorow continues his efforts to sound the alarm about the threat posed by the panicking entertainment industry’s overreaching copyright treaty initiatives:

Wikileaks has the full text of the dread Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a draft treaty that does away with those pesky public trade-negotiations at the United Nations (with participation from citizens’ groups and public interest groups) in favor of secret, closed-door meetings where entertainment industry giants get to give marching orders to governments in private.

It’s some pretty crazy reading — among other things, ACTA will outlaw P2P (even when used to share works that are legally available, like my books), and crack down on things like region-free DVD players. All of this is taking place out of the public eye, presumably with the intention of presenting it as a fait accompli just as the ink is drying on the treaty.

Honestly, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that the entertainment industry is an existential threat to the idea of free speech, open tools, and an open communications network. (Boing Boing)