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Sunday, September 17, 2023

Jesse Walker on pirate preservationists

I was a Kinks fan in the sense that I bought this album, Misfits, when it came out in the late 1970s, and a few others, but Jesse Walker is a much more serious fan that I; see his article. 

Jesse Walker has a really interesting article in the October issue of Reason magazine, "The Pirate Preservationists," now available online, about collectors who go beyond what is commercially available when collect TV shows, music from a favorite artists, etc. Jesse argues that while "piracy" has a bad name, such collectors often preserve work that otherwise might be lost.

I'm guessing that Robert Anton Wilson fans can relate. Even in RAW's lifetime, Email to the Universe drew on articles posted on the Robert Anton Wilson Fans website founded by Mike Gathers, and recent posthumous RAW books have used materials gathered by the likes of Mike and Martin Wagner. 

People who follow classical history, i.e. ancient Greece and Rome, know that only a tiny percentage of work written by classical authors has survived to modern times. But those kinds of losses have happened much more recently; here is an interesting bit from Jesse's piece:

"Preservation is a constant war against decay, a war where the losses outnumber the victories and the victories are only temporary. According to the Library of Congress, roughly 70 percent of silent-era movies are now gone completely and another 5 percent survive only in part. The library's list of lost sound recordings includes commercial releases by musicians as popular as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Ethel Waters. The vast majority of NBC's pre-TV newscasts have disappeared; they're rumored to be rotting in a landfill in New Jersey."

It seems to me that "pirate" is a term that takes in widely differing activities; collecting an article that otherwise might be lost seems wildly different, to me, than distributing a bootleg copy of a book available from Hilaritas Press. 

Jesse's article is illustrated with a photo of Jesse's music collection. I can figure out a lot of it, but what is the "Illuminatus Hi-Fi Companion" from DJ Sun Woo Kong? 


Jesse said...

It is a three-volume mix inspired by the Illuminatus! trilogy. If I remember correctly, Steve Aydt made it.

Spookah said...

I can assure you that many internet pirates are very consciously preserving art and culture. Some half-hidden corners of the internet are very much built on the idea of being an archive. The strength of such archives comes from their decentralized, peer-to-peer based, foundations. The exact opposite of being dependent on a company like Warner which might someday on a whim decide to remove access for people to entire chunks of the collection they own legal rights to.

And some dedicated pirates work hard for no money at all, for instance with films, translating subtitles for wider availability, adding different audio dubs from different sources, correcting the color grading when new blu-ray releases of old films tamper with it in order to make it look more like the way films look lide nowadays (that's an actual practice...) etc. A work of love.

In my eyes, the current economic model where artists need to sell their creation in order to pay their bills and stay alive is what's wrong, not the free sharing of human creativity and beautiful means of expression. This has been done for millenia, the legal fiction of copyrighting on the other hand is comparatively very recent.

The Principia Discordia has a disclaimer that states "All Rites Reversed – reprint what you like", and some claim that KLF stands for Kopyright Liberation Front. They got sued by ABBA's lawyers a good 10 years before the Metallica & Napster thing happened.

quackenbush said...

The rAW pOliTiCs book which may or may not be in the works will not be addressing Left vs Right in any way, shape, or form.

Just sayin'.