Ramon Lobato (Melbourne):

“Between Formal and Informal Media Economies: The Instrumentality of Piracy”

As the empirical norm of media distribution worldwide, and the default mode of audience engagement in most developing nations, piracy is an integral feature of the global media landscape. Yet it is not a singular practice with a coherent politics. Rather, “piracy” is a way of speaking about – and collapsing differences between – extremely heterogeneous media systems.

This presentation explores the structural diversity of informal media circuits worldwide and offers some reflections on forms of IP critique based on the figure of the global pirate. I describe some of the improbable uses of extra-legal media in nations such as the Philippines, Cuba, Nigeria and Mexico, and how these uses shape public culture and economic life. I also propose an alternative analytical vocabulary that connects piracy debates to wider social science research into off-the-books flows of commodities, money, people, and ideas.

Volker Grassmuck (Berlin):

“A Proposal for Legalising Small-Scale Physical Copyright Piracy: Book Publishing, Video Films and Music in Developing Countries”

The paper looks at the formative phase of media systems particularly in developing nations. It finds that copyright piracy in those situations serves a purpose not only in providing access to knowledge and creative works to audiences who would otherwise be excluded but also as the original accumulation of media infrastructures, know-how and capital that over time leads to the establishment of original forms of creative expression and legal media industries.

Looking at the examples of the publishing of books by foreign authors in 19th century USA, the emergence of the video film industry in Nigeria and briefly at the popular dance music in northern Brazil it shows the beneficial effects of piracy. From a public policy point of view, the paper then considers the benefits of copyright piracy and its harms, the most severe ones of which are caused by its illegality. In order to balance benefits and harms, it concludes by proposing to legalise small-scale physical copyright piracy in developing nations.

Ferdinand Mbecha (Berlin):

“Bootlegged Aesthetics? The Hollywood Intertext in Nollywood Videos”

One of the best skills of pirates of copyrighted products is their ability to hijack and successfully redirect formal channels of production, distribution and consumption to facilitate and perpetuate their trade (Crowford, 2009 and Larkin, 2004). For instance, the availability of relatively cheap consumer electronics equipped with copying, printing, basic editing, and burning capabilities makes it easier for movies, books, and music to be copied and redistributed in markets in the global South. Thus, the infrastructure acquires the dual functionality of serving two parallel markets – the legitimate and the pirate. Even then, the pirate economy often leads to the extension of the reach of the infrastructures and products by “serving as a means to go where the traditional economy cannot” (Liang and Prabhal 2006, 3). Consequently, the pirate economy can make relatively expensive copyrighted products readily available to low income earners.

Furthermore, and very important to the scope of this paper is the phenomenon of sampling or what in some contexts would be labelled as plagiarism. The meaning of “sampling” is meant in this paper to be understood beyond its more popular usage in music. This paper explores the concept from the point of view of intertextuality, appropriation and indigenisation. The easy access to technology means that economic operators in the Global South can sample, appropriate, and reshape copyrighted products from the Global North to suit indigenous tastes and socio-cultural realities. It is common to find Nigerian video films that at face value are nothing more than a reproduction of Hollywood or Bollywood movies. Aesthetically, Crowford argues, these films are tarnished by the “watermark of a duplicated look or a bootleg aesthetic” (2009, 13). However, this paper goes beyond claims of a bootleg aesthetic and argues that the layers of intertextuality are spaces within which the film makers not only access Western modernity but also animate, debate, and negotiate questions of tradition versus modernity, change, and identity.

Nitin Govil (San Diego):

“When Hollywood Was New”

For almost a hundred years, the relationship between the American and Indian film industries has been defined by film piracy. Of course, the American industry was founded on unauthorized appropriation of story ideas, scripts, and often the films themselves. Nevertheless, Hollywood long considered India among the foremost perpetrators of global media piracy. Even Hollywood’s recent successes in India, predicated on measures like simultaneous release, big-budget special effects, dubbing, and multiplexes designed to lure audiences back to movie theatres, have not displaced a century of anxiety about film copyright. This presentation follows Hollywood’s passage to India, focusing on the transnational circuits mapped by the pirate commodity. Of primary significance is an 80 year-old story of early Hollywood in India. Beginning in the late 1920s, Douglas Fairbanks and his distributor, United Artists, sued multiple companies in India, alleging piracies of films like The Thief of Bagdad (1925). Indian pirate exhibition made Fairbanks into an icon and Thief inspired a number of Indian films even as Fairbanks himself served as a model for Indian stunt acting. This case destabilizes the historical division between originality and duplication, showing not only how Hollywood copyright went “off-kilter” in the modern project, but that it was less than sure-footed from the start.

Satish Poduval (Hyderabad):

“Hacking and Difference: Reflections on Authorship in the Postcolonial Pirate Domain”

The figure of the author has survived his much-vaunted death: critical theory since Foucault has not just tracked the consolidation of author-functions in legal and commercial discourse, but also shifted the focus on the author’s doppelganger – the hack – from moral/aesthetic scorn towards an interest in the historical and social effects of piracy and “mimicry.” In this paper, I will explore some of the implications of this shift for a deeply unequal nation like India. Drawing on the work done at Alternative Law Forum (Bangalore) and Sarai (New Delhi), my paper will engage with three recent scenarios involving the hack: (1) the bitter debate that occurred in Kerala after a copyright infringement case was filed against T.V. Chandran’s ultra-left “counter-play” Whom Did You Make a Communist? (1995) which had borrowed (and satirized) the plot, characters and dialogues from Thoppil Bhasi’s classic Marxist play You Made Me a Communist! (1951); (2) the ideas of original art and commercial pastiche mediated by the Malayalam blockbuster Udayan’s the Real Star (2005); and (3) Dibakar Bannerjee’s Hindi film L.S.D (2010), which stages three film-within-film vignettes that point to the evisceration of power from the “eye” of the author/auteur to disembodied surveillance cameras and Entertainment Inc. The idea is to trace how the hack reframes notions of cultural authority within postcolonial modernity.

Dawn-Elissa Fischer (San Francisco):

“This Bridge Called Hiphop: Samples of Percussion, Piracy and Politics from Brazil and Colombia”

This paper examines the political implications of two musical projects that were facilitated through an international Hiphop network in Brazil and Colombia. These projects present a Hiphop aesthetic in that they cut across time, technology and geography. That is, these projects remix, sample and create music and visual art that is rooted in and yet spans beyond the global culture known to the world as Hiphop. The final cultural products – the films, Brasilintime and Tradition in Transition – are simultaneously authochthonous and transnational. They present elements and layers of local cultures from specific regions in Brazil and Colombia and join them with cultures as close as other Caribbean and US locations as well as distant interlocutors from Europe and Africa. Each project involved multi-directional global flows of production and reproduction as well as collaborations among indigenous African-descendant artists in Latin America and historically subjugated nationals from the Global North (e.g., African-American, Welsh and Irish artists). This paper presents analysis gleaned from original interviews with artists and experts concerning “piracy” and production. It also shares film samples from one of the projects’ key directors, Brian “B+” Cross.

Adam Haupt (Cape Town):

“Music from the Margins: Access and Participation in South Africa”

Whilst much can be said about the emergence of black youth culture and the affirmation of black cultural expression through the genres of kwaito and hip-hop after apartheid, it is arguable that many young musicians in South Africa struggle to locate paying audiences as well as recording and distribution strategies that empower them as artists as well as young entrepreneurs. This paper, which is based on a chapter from Static: Music and Identity after Apartheid, HSRC Press: 2012, forthcoming), explores musicians’ use of both conventional mass media channels as well as social media. The democratic shift from mass media’s one-to-many model to Web 2.0’s many-to-many model is promising, but one should not overlook some of the constraints that marginal artists continue to face. These include the digital divide and racialised class inequalities; limited knowledge of copyright law and business aspects of the music industry; the corporate monopolisation of news and entertainment media; concerns about government policy on local radio and TV music quotas; and growing criticism of South Africa’s existing copyright legislation, which has been characterised by The African Commons Project as too vague on issues like fair use / fair dealing and free speech rights.

Henry Stobart (London):

“Poverty and Piracy: Local Music Recordings and Competing Interests in Bolivia”

So-called “piracy” is sometimes seen to be justified by the inequalities which deny economically disadvantaged populations access to cultural products, media and knowledge. Justification may also be related to the injustices that are seen to surround the mechanisms and power structures underlying authorship, ownership, rights protection and circulation. These kinds of justifications are frequently heard in Bolivia – the poorest and most indigenous county in South America – where, in turn, they are linked to the histories of foreign exploitation of the nation’s rich natural and cultural resources. Education, economics and the dynamism of cultural life in Bolivia today are highly dependent on the unlicensed reproduction and circulation of internationally produced books, software, music and video. Although copyright protection is enshrined in law and in the new constitution, no serious enforcement policy has emerged in recent administrations, including the current pro-indigenous government of Evo Morales, with its anti-capitalist and decolonising rhetoric.

Based on ethnographic research in 2007-8, this paper examines some of the strategies adopted by Gregorio Mamani (1960-2011), an indigenous (originario) musician and music video producer, in the context of a market dominated by the unlicensed circulation of music videos. How did this low-income musician encourage (low income) vendors to sell and (low income) consumers to purchase “original” rather than “pirated” versions of his work? In short, how do justifications regarding access and fair recompense for artistic production play out in this kind of local, low income and unregulated context?

Marcus Boon (Toronto):

“Depropriation: The Real Pirate’s Dilemma“

My paper explores the concept of depropriation as a tool to illuminate “postcolonial piracy” and other contemporary situations. Globalization and digitization both amplify possibilities for appropriation to occur – an appropriation that is associated with “piracy” on the one hand, as the illegitimate possession and exchange of privately owned things … and appropriation as both the means by which things are taken from a global commons, and donated to it. By depropriation I mean to suggest both certain things that are unownable, that cannot be made private property and are therefore necessarily part of a public domain or commons. I will explore a variety of examples of depropriation, including Occupy Wall Street, WikiLeaks and the recent musical compilation, Music from Saharan Cellphones.

Karen Salt (Aberdeen):

“Viral Activism: Haiti, Transmigration, and Transgressive Music”

During the Haitian Revolution, a powerful cultural art form emerged amongst the slaves that combined spirituality, political critique, and song. Today, this musical expression is known as Rara. The increasing transmigration of Haitians into the global marketplace has transformed this musical tradition into an intriguing postcolonial entity – a form of viral activism more closely tied to hip hop than Haiti’s revolutionary beginnings. This paper teases out this shift by examining what happens when activism goes viral along the pockets (and the electronic pathways) of transmigration

Johannes Ismaiel-Wendt (Bremen/Berlin):

“De-Linking Afric C”

Seeing “piracy” neither as a criminal offence nor as an expression of freedom and potential creativity, but as a primarily Western construct, we will realize that it is a still-present twin of European colonialism. Piracy is the logical consequence of the colonial excess of “thingification” (Césaire). It is the clandestine follower of the colonial desire for mapping the world and the longing for identifying monolithic cultures.

De-Linking Afric C is a sound lecture that irritates the postcolonial mappings of music and negates cultural belonging. It’s a live audio re-mix that de-tunes cultural clichés and destroys imagined musical geographies. It is an audio track that creates its own cultural knowledge driven by the musical form.

Ravi Sundaram (Delhi):

“The Lives of Media Piracy”