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Internet Pirates! Unite! You've nothing to lose...

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Message Prakash Kona

I've always thought I must thank them.

Those internet pirates, they're indeed true communists. The strength of their education shows in their determination to open the doors of knowledge to the world. It is to them I owe some of the joys of my intellectual life. I don't intend to romanticize them. But I would be terribly unfair not to acknowledge their contribution to my growth. I intend to consciously take a stand in defending their violation of copyright laws against the so-called anti-piracy legislation or any other law that intends to suppress the free flow of ideas. My point is simple: what is the violation of copyright when compared to the violation of the bodies of the poor that happens on a day-to-day basis! It does not stop with that.

If I were just an "I' it would mean nothing. There are countless others with an "I' attached to their bodies and minds like myself who benefit through piracy. When knowledge is pirated it is the others who benefit. We get to see movies and download books. We learn for the sake of learning and the learning does not instill in us the artificial need to seek material compensation. Just as I've received without having to pay for it I give in equal measure to the world around me.

I would've had to pay an impossible amount of money to read all that I've read and to watch all that I've watched. The young Marx in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 says eloquently in the section "The Power of Money in Bourgeois Society," "The extent of the power of money is the extent of my power. Money's properties are my -- the possessor's -- properties and essential powers. Thus, what I am and am capable of is by no means determined by my individuality"I am bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honored, and hence its possessor. Money is the supreme good, therefore its possessor is good." I see no basis as to why we should not be able to acquire and enjoy the best that comes from the world of art, culture and scholarship without bringing money into the picture. There is no reason why money should come between me and what I love. Says Marx: "If you love without evoking love in return -- that is, if your loving as loving does not produce reciprocal love; if through a living expression of yourself as a loving person you do not make yourself a beloved one, then your love is impotent -- a misfortune."

It's an impotence and a misfortune we observe among them who are incapable of rising beyond monetary greed in the attempts to crush piracy because it benefits the corporations at the expense of the ones who cannot pay for these things. One of my favorite Tim Robbins movie is "Antitrust" (2001) which did badly in the United States and was generally not rated well by critics -- what do you expect from a nation dedicated to preserving commercial interests over human concerns? I don't think a movie that attacks corporations blatantly and shows a Bill Gates look alike CEO as a villain is welcome to the media and publishing industries. That is the case however. As the stand-up comedian George Carlin would say they want everything for themselves and nothing for others. When they speak of "life" they mean their life and not the lives of others. They couldn't care less for those others.

The argument that not everyone needs knowledge is a flimsy one. There cannot be a monopoly over ideas simply because even the downtrodden classes would like to learn and to know. It is just that they have no access to resources. In the biography of Johnson by Boswell, the great writer makes a similar point. " JOHNSON: 'Why, Sir, that may be true in cases where learning cannot possibly be of any use; for instance, this boy rows us as well without learning, as if he could sing the song of Orpheus to the Argonauts, who were the first sailors.' He then caned to the boy, 'What would you give, my lad, to know about the Argonauts?' 'Sir, (said the boy,) I would give what I have.' Johnson was much pleased with his answer, and we gave him a double fare. Dr. Johnson then turning to me, 'Sir, (said he) a desire of knowledge is the natural feeling of mankind; and every human being, whose mind is not debauched, will be willing to give all that he has to get knowledge.'"

Johnson couldn't be more right when he says that "a desire of knowledge is the natural feeling of mankind" something for which a human being is "willing to give all that he has." I think more support should be given to internet pirates and internet piracy because they are breaking the barriers between knowledge and the person who wants to know especially if they are working class or in the third world. More active public demonstrations should be done in their favor. There is no need to be defensive about it. There would be no art and culture if there were no working classes who made it possible in the first place. Let them have an opportunity to taste the fruits of their labor when they have access to materials that are free.

Saint Francis rejects the view that knowledge brings liberation (preferring instead that one lives in accordance with the gospel). With the conviction that knowledge is futile and no book could equal THE BOOK, Caliph Omar destroyed the library of Alexandria, a fact mourned alike by Muslims and Christians. Borges however adds in his poem "Alexandria 641 A.D."

Unceasing human work gave birth to this
Infinity of books. If of them all
Not even one remained, man would again
Beget each page and every line,
Each work and every love of Hercules,
And every teaching of every manuscript.

Knowledge in other words is not just knowledge of books. The human mind has an infinite capacity to invent and reinvent itself. The monopoly of knowledge that corporations have is only a temporary one. It doesn't mean people cannot and will not experience the world and imagine it through the mind's eye. This does not contradict the fact that original ideas come from the margins and move to the center and that we need knowledge as a platform to both personal and political liberation. Internet Piracy undoubtedly is a form of resistance even if it meant that the pirates profit in some way. The corporate stranglehold on knowledge and entertainment needs to be broken down "by any means necessary" as Malcolm X says.

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Prakash Kona is a writer, teacher and researcher who lives in Hyderabad, India. He is currently Professor at the Department of English Literature, The English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad.

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