Bodó, B. (2015). The common paths of piracy and samizdat. In V. Parisi (Ed.), Samizdat. Budapest: CEU Institute for Advanced Study. books/censorship/publications/Scrapbook/software/technology

On the 10th of August, for its 10th anniversary, The Pirate Bay (TPB) released a piece of software called the Piratebrowser, tagged with the headline: “No more censorship!”(Anon 2013b) It enables users who live in countries where access to TPB is blocked to circumvent national internet filters. It is a simplified version of a Tor network-based web-browser , which is used by many who want to stay anonymous and avoid the blocking and the surveillance of their online activities. The Tor network is used by: dissenters in oppressive countries with pervasive internet censorship; privacy-conscious users who wish to stay hidden from the surveillance machinery of spy agencies; leakers and whistleblowers; and users who wish to engage in various illegal activities from watching child pornography to buying drugs.

There are many reasons why governments and private interests wish to survey or censor certain online content and services. Copyright enforcement is one of them. The methods and technologies used for blocking access to TPB in the Netherlands and to Twitter in Iran are the same. But as the Piratebrowser warns us, the tools to circumvent these blocks are also the same. Copyright piracy and anti-censorship actions are crossing paths again, for the umpteenth time in the history of copyright (and censorship). But the question remains: is the latest effort of online pirates to cross-dress as free-speech warriors a simple opportunistic move to gain legitimacy, or there is something more to their claims?

Read the full paper here…

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