Jessica Silbey, ‘We’re All Pirates Now: Making Do in a Precarious IP Ecosystem’

Fifteen years after the Piracy Paradox explained how most anti-copying protection is unnecessary for a thriving fashion industry, we face another piracy paradox: with broader and stronger IP laws and a digital economy in which IP enforcement is more draconian than ever, what explains the ubiquity of everyday copying, sharing, re-making and re-mixing practices that are the life blood of the internet’s expressive and innovative ecosystems? Drawing on empirical data from a decade of research, this short essay provides two examples of this ‘new piracy paradox’: a legal regime that ostensibly punishes piracy in a culture in which it is unavoidable. The examples show how everyday creators and innovators negotiate the necessity of copying others’ work with the desire for control over their own work in ways largely orthogonal to IP law. I describe these ‘adaptations’ that combine a narrower scope of rights and qualitative metrics for protection alongside attribution norms, with references to interview data. Both ‘adaptations’ broaden the public domain while building resiliency within creative and innovative communities. Neither lack controversy or contestation, but together they explain how everyday creators and innovators make their way in an IP system that largely fails to adapt or reflect their own values or practices in the Internet age.

Silbey, Jessica M, We’re All Pirates Now: Making Do in a Precarious IP Ecosystem (June 18, 2021). Cardozo Arts and Entertainment Law Journal, volume 39, no 2, 2021.

First posted 2021-07-01 09:00:55

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