Digital Pirates
Policing Intellectual Property in Brazil
Alexander Sebastian Dent


Contents and Abstracts
Introduction: The Joys and Sorrows of Digital Textuality
chapter abstract

The interplay between piracy and intellectual property (IP) "maximalism" provides a metric for understanding contemporary capitalism and its reliance on digital textuality. Brazil, with its tradition of cultural mixture, its status as an emergent economy, and its identity as a site of insurgent media, is an ideal location for analyzing this. Brazil's recent political scandals also frame some of the anxieties surrounding digital textuality. This book seeks to avoid technological determinism and simplistic distinctions between the "virtual" and the "real"; digital textuality emerges from past forms of mediation and revolves around practices just as much as any hardware. This book is unique in seeking to understand IP maximalism and piracy together, by way of language. The book also focuses on enforcement where much of the current treatment of "piracy" focuses on its practitioners. I aim for a broad readership in policy, enforcement, and design.

1 "Magical" Consumption and the Violence of Informality
chapter abstract

Digital textuality can best be explained by way of intertextual gaps. Within the context of contemporary capitalism, consumers are trained by IP maximalism to "filter" commodities and services for circulatory legitimacy—a measure of attention to a "rights holder." An active IP maximalism industry seeks to define the production of a whole array of items—such as generic drugs and auto parts, printer cartridges, beauty products, and off-brand clothing—as "piracy." The industry also seeks to blur the distinctions between once-distinct forms of IP such as copyright, trademark, and patent, once again making use of the term "piracy." Circulatory legitimacy appears in a somewhat different way in large, informal economies, where participants see their practices as defying unreasonable international monopolies and governmental overtaxing. In these informal economies, conflicts over ways to "formalize" can become violent, showing how the dialogue between IP and piracy makes life dangerous for practitioners of informality.

2 The Materialities of Digital Texts
chapter abstract

Police officers in Brazil (and around the world) are being incentivized to crack down on large, public informal economies—frequently focusing on illegally copied DVDs, music, software, and videogames. This has pushed piracy to the center of consumer subjectivities and has fragmented, multiplied, and spread piracy to smaller, residential sites. Police officers are trained to focus on the ways in which digital textuality materializes in "dirty" and "promiscuous" ways, aligning with local understandings of gender, criminality, and illicit mixture. Brazilian histories of dictatorship and censorship provide resources for contemporary IP maximalism, as objects with high degrees of circulatory legitimacy (such as religious relics and hagiographic museum exhibits) are promulgated as alternatives to piracy.

3 Bordering, the Internet, and Paraguayan Horses
chapter abstract

The Internet is the consummate space of digital textuality – both its mode and its means of circulation. Brazilian understandings of the liquidity and incumbent danger of the Internet are shaped by unequal bordering practices with Paraguay—a nation decimated by a war with Brazil and Argentina in the 1800s and continually reminded of its subaltern status in international negotiations over electricity and trade. The "Friendship Bridge" between Brazil and Paraguay is a site where digital textuality once again takes material form—as the technology required to consume public culture moves from lower-status Paraguay to higher-status Brazil in the context of capricious and sometimes violent policing. Many of these kinds of tensions manifest in a Brazilian expression; when something doesn't work properly, or when it purports to be of higher status than it really is, it is referred to as being "Paraguayan."

4 Pre-Papal Preparations and Cellularity
chapter abstract

Many of the large, informal economies that once housed piracy of DVDs, music, videogames, and software are now primarily concerned with cellular phones, cell phone repair, and phone accessories. Cellular phones represent an aspect of digital textuality that seeks to reduce response time, transcend space, condense communicative modalities, and amplify portability. The union of these characteristics dialogues with Brazilian engagements with inscription and broadcast, such as the landline telephone. Brazil's autocritique, found in notions of associated dependent development, continues to fuel anxieties that the nation has moved "too fast" and "skipped" developmental steps, raising problems of temporality. Nonetheless, the centrality of the cellular to contemporary Brazilian capitalism has amplified the capricious and violent nature of the policing of digital textuality.

5 Digital Textuality as Interruption
chapter abstract

The condensation and portability of the cellular phone lead to the device's capacity to make its users "always on." International cell phone companies and local providers celebrate the alignment of this flexibility with the neoliberal structure of work, but the always-on nature of cell phones leads to substantial anxiety in Brazil. Aside from developmentalist shaming, this form of digital textuality leads to a constant fear of "interruption"—not just of essential communicative processes, but of state functions and even of life itself. In the popular news media, obsessions develop with the ways criminal gangs make use of cellular communication to transcend the physical boundaries of prison, running the nation in illicit ways by "cloned" cellular phones in carrying out drug deals, prison riots, and murder.

Conclusion: Stationary Indians and Corporate Raiders
chapter abstract

One of the unique characteristics of digital textuality—in relation to the forms of textuality that preceded it—is the way it unites inscription and broadcasting. Quotidian communication not only involves making the text portable to future encounters, it also promulgates the text. The vectors of this promulgation create excitement when that text "blows up" or "goes viral," perhaps making its originator famous. However, when an untoward use of a text goes viral, contravening its original intentions and putting its authors at risk, the dark side of digital textuality comes into play. The interplay between IP maximalism and piracy allows us to see how modernity, and its association with contemporary capitalism, relies upon the modes of circulation encapsulated by digital textuality. A failure to understand how these simultaneously global and local approaches to digital textuality play out dooms us to repeat the back-and-forth that has characterized most contemporary approaches to IP.