Medosch argues that: “piracy, despite being an entirely commercially motivated activity carried out in black or grey markets, fulfills culturally important functions” (Reader, page 318). Discuss:
Something about our structured society has created a longing in most individuals to break free from the system by which we live, and instead create rebellious and anarchistic interactions. While most of us resist the urge to take arms against the ‘the man’ and overthrow our ruthless leaders in a bloody coup (screw you regional manager of KFC Victoria), the concept of ‘pirating’ none the less continues to influence our primal instincts on some level.
In modernity, pirating cannot only be seen as a defiant act for personal gain, but must also be considered in the contexts of prevailing social theories. A good example of this would be an organization such as Apple, who are renowned for their super-chic’ computer products…and extreme exploitation of capitalist market systems(Veronica Roberts 2010). I literally could sit here all day and pound out hundreds of reasons why Apple is a terrible (Jason O’Grady 2009), evil(Cameron Scott 2010), soulless(John Naughton 2011) company, however (much to my disappointment) I have a point to make, so basically the Apple argument goes like this…
As a company, Apple specialize in extremely popular and user friendly products (iPod, iPad, Mac Operating Systems, etc.) however in creating said products, interactivity between the user and the product must be limited.
In order to maintain a product that is both:
a) Intuitive to use
b) Extremely profitable…
…Apple creates stringent limitations regarding the amount of manipulation that is possible to occur within their technical systems.
So I ask you this; what happens when you change the background on your iPhone?
Answer: Nothing, because it’s not possible. Well it is…but more on that later. Basically, Apple is able to enforce a rigid technological system (which is difficult to manipulate) in order to regulate and maximize the profitability their products.
Here’s where social theories come in (aka, the fun part). Liberal minded individuals don’t sit too well with the thought of their technologic opportunities being limited… even if all they really want to do is apply a Dragonball Z theme to their iPhone. So to counter Apple’s controlling ways, various contributors make it possible to change the nature by which the technology operates, thereby ‘hacking’ it.
Actually ‘hacking’ occurs to a lot of established products… but for Apple, the community usually refers to as ‘Jail-Breaking’. ‘Jail-Breaking’ an iPhone, for example, allows the individual to break free of the rigid structure imposed by the capitalist pigs over at Apple, and instead engage in more open source related activities with their product.
Predictably, Apple frowns on this practice, and the open source nature of interactions that occur (through the sharing of themes, backgrounds, 3rd party apps, etc.) are considered piracy by most definitions. However, through this semi-illegal hack, a greater freedom(Simon Ng 2008) is offered beyond that of the original product. In this way, piracy can be seen as fulfilling culturally important functions… although you would only see it that way from the consumer’s point of view.
I think that the internet in its earliest incarnations gave people a taste of freedom from social structures, so that piracy online has gradually become an excepted occurrence. Now that capitalist ventures have realized this, attempts to limit piracy will inevitably be attempted. What this example shows is that piracy not only serves a purpose, but is now virtually unstoppable thanks to open source and file sharing communities of contributors. Ultimately I believe this will bring positive results, however it is important to note that piracy in this manner will always occur in response to initial established products, rather than actually creating said products themselves.
*I think its valuable to note that some of the links here simply could not be referenced, either because they represent files available through file-sharing websites, or because they have multiple contributors (cough, wikipedia, cough). However they are still valuable to the purpose of this blog sooo…please take that into consideration?
- Veronica Roberts 2010, AllVoices, China viewed 30 May 2011, <http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/5974288-10-workers-commit-suide-at-apple-s-foxconn-in-china>
- Jason O’Grady 2009, Ricoh, viewed 30 May 2011, <http://www.zdnet.com/blog/apple/chinese-worker-commits-suicide-after-losing-prototype-iphone-4g-updated/4449>
- Cameron Scott 2010, inhabitat, viewed 30 May 2011, <http://inhabitat.com/is-apple-involved-in-heavy-metal-pollution-in-china/>
- John Naughton 2011, The Observer, London viewed 30 May 2011, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/06/john-naughton-apple-dominates-market>
- Simon Ng 2008, WordPress, viewed 30 May 2011, <http://www.simonblog.com/2008/10/05/why-jailbreak-top-5-reasons-to-jailbreak-iphone/>