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Title: The ambivalences of piracy : BitTorrent media piracy and anti-capitalism
Author: Aitken, Paul Alexander
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis argues that a more nuanced study of online media piracy is necessary in order to augment the dominant focus on piracy's relationship to copyright. Copyright as a frame for understanding piracy's relationship to capitalism has left potentially more crucial areas of study neglected. An approach to understanding the relationship of media piracy to anticapitalist projects must engage with forms of media piracy in their specificity and not as a homogeneous field. The thesis argues that it is possible and necessary to push beyond the constraints of copyright activism and intellectual property and in so doing opens up new areas of inquiry into online media piracy's potential to challenge logics of property and commodification. Original research is presented in the form of a highly detailed description and analysis of private BitTorrent filesharing sites. These sites are secretive and yet to receive scholarly attention in such a detailed and systematic way. This research finds both public and private variants of BitTorrent media piracy to be highly ambivalent with regards to their transformative potentials in relation to capital and thus tempers more extreme views of piracy as wholly revolutionary and emancipatory, and those that see pirate as a 'simple' form of theft. Public and private BitTorrent filesharing are theorised through the lens of Autonomist Marxism, a perspective that has a novel view of technology both as a tool of domination and a force for potential emancipation. Piracy is analysed for its capacity to refuse the valorisation of the enjoyment of music or film via the surveillance and tracking of audiences, which has become typical for contemporary legal online distribution venues. The thesis further analyses BitTorrent piracy's relationship to the 'common', the shared capacities for creating knowledge, ideas, affects. The thesis concludes that further scholarly research must move beyond concerns for creators' remuneration and its focus on reforming existing copyright policy and instead engage with the emergent institutional structures of organised media piracy. Though publicly accessible BitTorrent piracy has contributed to a broadening of awareness about issues of access to information, such an awareness often leaves in place logics of private property and capitalist accumulation. Finally, the thesis argues that the richness and complexity of private sites' organisational valences carry with them greater potential for radically destabilising capitalist social relations with regard to the distribution of cultural production.
Supervisor: Taylor, Paul Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available