Four Shreddings and a Funeral
This is the manuscript for a ritual performed by Piratbyrån some days ago, including a four-point communique declaring the so-called file-sharing debate dead and buried.
The spring mountain. The highest point in Stockholm. It's twilight time at Walpurgis Night. Four piles of the book "Copy Me" are assembled in the formation of a rhomb.
In the middle stands the May Queen, in green clothing and a face mask of feathers. In her hand, a burning torch.
"Welcome to Piratbyran's Walpurgis ritual year 2007: "Four shreddings and a funeral". Today, we will finally put an end to the so-called "file-sharing debate"; the same file-sharing debate that we once took part in initiating has now served its time.
When Piratbyran was founded four years ago, there was no such discussion in Sweden as there is today. There were anti-piracy groups whose words stood unchallenged, but first and foremost there existed a copying without historical equivalent, taking place in file-sharing networks.
We gave a voice to that copying, but now it is time to move along.
After two years of activity, Piratbyran collected the texts from our webpage and let them be printed printed in a book, entitled Copy Me. This book is the only enduring and burnable document from the past years. By destroying that document we will sweep out the old and frozen positions, and ake room for new ones. Everything has its time, and Walpurgis Night is the time to leave bygone stuff behind and greet
the spring and its playfulness.
Hereby we burn, in four book-fires, four conceptual opposites which we are now done with, and which are already collapsing.
[The May Queen initiates fire #1]
Copying takes place everywhere and all the time. To use digital data is to copy it. No matter if it's from hard drive to RAM memory, from one portable device to another or from peer to peer. No matter if the physical distance of the copy is measured in millimeters or miles. No matter if the copy travels through a eurological path, through cable or wireless, on plastic discs, chips or constellations of cells.
Still some people prefer to speak for or against file-sharing, as if it was an isolated phenomena. As if the alternatives was no more than two: file-sharing networks or selling digital files.
Yesterday we walked around with megabytes in our pockets, today with gigabytes and tomorrow terabytes. The day after tomorrow, for a reasonable price, we will have tiny storage devices that contain more film, music, text and images than we can ever incorporate into out lives. Everything ready for immediate transfer to another persons device.
[The May Queen lights the second fire]
There is no longer an archive that is yours entirely. Neither an archive completely open to all. The divide between private and public networks, copies and performances does not comply anymore. What's left are networks through which you have more or less access to different archives. There are localities and communities to take part in, technical and social barriers to access, but there is no fundamental difference between a copy from your external hard drive and one from an open file-sharing network.
File-sharing has a potential to create meaning, community and context -- a bigger potential than most other forms of reproduction. We want to keep talking about how that potential may be realized in the best manner possible, how cultural circulation can be organized and how the unleashed forces of the open archives can be used for more that stacking a pile of objects which we care less and less about. However, we want to stop explaining why file-sharing is righteous or not – as if there was a choice between copying and non-copying.
[The May Queen sets the third pile on fire]
To ask if distribution of film and music should be free or cost money is like asking if it should be free or cost money to attend a party. Sometimes, someone manages to charge a toll when we want to enter a space that summons something better than the spaces that are free, but no one would even think of banning free parties. When do you actually have a party, and when are you just having some fun?
The files are already downloaded. The files are already uploaded. They've been going up and down and in and out in abundance. Instead of discussion how the forces of winter are going to sell snow to Eskimos, we want to talk about how to extract meaning from this abundance.
[The May Queen initiates the last fire and performs a ritual dance]
The digital networks makes processes, identities, contexts and works infinitely connected. The division between creator, work and consumer is a bleak way of describing cultural circulation and digital lifeforms.
The cost of upholding copyright's abstract relations between art, technology and life is a world that is mute and ever more depopulated.
Hence, we are not about anti-copyright but more – Thank you and good bay (sic!). Let's have a fucking party!
[The May Queen spreads the ashes by the wind. In the distance, more fires are lit throughout the Stockholm suburbs.]
The file-sharing debate is hereby buried. When we talk about file-sharing from now on it's as one of many ways to copy. We talk about better and worse ways of indexing, archiving and copying – not whether copying is right or wrong. Winter is pouring down the hillside. Make way for spring!
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