Cover of Digital Pirates by Alexander S. Dent
Digital Pirates
Policing Intellectual Property in Brazil
Alexander S. Dent


July 2020
216 pages.
from $26.00

Cloth ISBN: 9781503611443
Paper ISBN: 9781503612976

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Digital Pirates examines the unauthorized creation, distribution, and consumption of movies and music in Brazil. Alexander Sebastian Dent offers a new definition of piracy as indispensable to current capitalism alongside increasing global enforcement of intellectual property (IP). Complex and capricious laws may prohibit it, but piracy has become a core activity of the twenty-first-century.

Combining the tools of linguistic and cultural anthropology with models from media studies and political economy, Digital Pirates reveals how the dynamics of IP and piracy serve as strategies for managing the gaps between texts—in this case, digital content. Dent's analysis includes his fieldwork in and around São Paulo with pirates, musicians, filmmakers, police, salesmen, technicians, policy makers, politicians, activists, and consumers. Rather than argue for rigid positions, he suggests that Brazilians are pulled in multiple directions according to the injunctions of international governance, localized pleasure, magical consumption, and economic efficiency. Through its novel theorization of "digital textuality," this book offers crucial insights into the qualities of today's mediascape as well as the particularized political and cultural norms that govern it. The book also shows how 21st century capitalism simultaneously generates piracy and its enforcement, while producing fraught consumer experiences—in Latin America and beyond.

About the author

Alexander Sebastian Dent is Associate Professor of Anthropology & International Affairs at George Washington University.

"Digital Pirates is an insightful and often beautiful exploration of digitization as a dissolving agent for older cultural forms, a catalyst for new ones, and a context for reconsolidating the boundaries that define markets, institutions, laws, and publics. Alex Dent moves fluidly between theoretical and empirical registers to weave a rich account of lived experience in Brazil that illuminates global cultural change."

—Joe Karaganis, Columbia University

"Smart, sly, and generatively disconcerting, Digital Pirates is an ethnographically textured and theoretically rambunctious charting of emerging mediascapes. Dent provides a complex and challenging account of contemporary Brazil and a principled exploration of the unpredictable resonances at the contested confluence of media, technology, regulatory regimes, and creativity. And he does so with piratical panache."

—Donald L. Brenneis, University of California, Santa Cruz