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The Pirate’s Dilemma

How Youth Culture is Reinventing Capitalism

By Matt Mason
  • Read in 18 minutes
  • Contains 11 key ideas
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The Pirate’s Dilemma by Matt Mason

The Pirate’s Dilemma is an examination of the pirate spirit, its rejection of authority, and the profound ways that this philosophy has changed the world for the better. By adopting the pirate spirit, individuals and businesses have a chance to use open-source methods in order to survive, flourish and be a positive influence in the inevitable shift towards an economy in which seemingly anything can be copied.

Key idea 1 of 11

Piracy means bending the rules to copy, share, and change the world, and create new avenues of expression.

What do you see when you imagine a pirate? Probably a grizzled, peg-legged, crazy-hat-wearing guy with a parrot on his shoulder going on about rum and treasure and saying things like argh matey. In today's world, there is another, more subtle kind of pirate whose influence can be found in nearly all aspects of our lives.

These pirates copy, share, and change intellectual property – both legally and illegally. A pirate could be anyone from a DVD bootlegger to a T-shirt company copying the latest fashion from renowned designers.

Pirates also modify existing things, like the artists who change urban landscapes by adding graffiti to compete with advertising, or the musicians who remix and sample songs they don’t own.

Piracy isn’t just about manipulating intellectual property; it’s also about the creation of new public spaces where these novel changes to other people’s ideas can be shared and can flourish.

Indeed, pirates create spaces where traditional rules don’t apply. Sealand, an abandoned fort off the coast of England resides in international waters. Thus it is not governed by law, and was consequently ripe for the taking by a pirate radio DJ who broadcasts his shows to England.

By finding an area that was unbound by any sort of laws, he was able to create his own rules.

Using other people’s ideas to create new things, legally or illegally, has led to the creation of a whole new world of ideas and media. For example, newsletters circulated among those who created the early internet and open-source culture, such as the Free Software Foundation, arose from the marriage of new ideas and new spaces.

As we can see, piracy is a lot more than mere looting. It’s also about creation, reinvention, and the meeting of ideas.

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