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What is a Pirate? · Wednesday April 29, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

Pirate

n.

  1. a. One who robs at sea or plunders the land from the sea without commission from a sovereign nation.
    b. A ship used for this purpose.
  2. One who preys on others; a plunderer.
  3. One who makes use of or reproduces the work of another without authorization.
  4. One that operates an unlicensed, illegal television or radio station.
  5. (chiefly 21st century Internet) One who asserts and defends natural rights.
    A pirate asserts and defends the natural right to liberty typically through file-sharing (qv 3. unauthorised reproduction) contrary to publishing corporations’ amassed privilege of copyright.
    A pirate asserts and defends the natural right to privacy typically through technical measures and by campaigning against its invasion by state or corporations (whether to detect copyright infringement or to profile individuals to better target advertising to them).

Modern Usage

Over the last year Phorm has been the subject of a smear campaign orchestrated by a small but dedicated band of online “privacy pirates” who appear very determined to harm our company. (from StopPhoulPlay by Phorm, Inc.)

So, now you know what a latterday pirate is, and how Phorm has used the epithet privacy pirate consistent with its contemporary definition.

j dudley said 3817 days ago :

Isn’t this Orwellian NewSpeak? The classical definitions of a privacy pirate – taking what is not yours – would seem to apply to Phorm. Phorm have then redefined ‘privacy advocate’ as ‘privacy pirate’, creating a smear campaign against their critics – and then create nonce definitions to pretend that their critics are the pirates, and that their critics are running a smear campaign.

Your definition [5] confuses ‘natural rights’ (GNU) with piracy (The Pirates Bay). You do not have a ‘natural right’ to take what belongs to others, whether or not you wish you did. GNU is clear on that.

Crosbie Fitch said 3817 days ago :

> The classical
> definitions of a privacy pirate – taking what is not yours –
> would seem to apply to Phorm.

I don’t think there is a classical definition of a ‘privacy pirate’ (a neologism if ever I heard one). A pirate is generally one who interferes with merchants’ business (directly or indirectly). If Phorm is in the business of analysing individuals’ web browsing to better target advertising to them, then a privacy pirate would be someone who interferes with their access to this ‘private’ data.

> Your definition [5] confuses ‘natural rights’ (GNU) with
> piracy (The Pirates Bay).

Natural rights are natural rights. They are self-evident and aren’t defined by GNU or TPB.

> You do not have a ‘natural right’
> to take what belongs to others, whether or not you wish you
> did. GNU is clear on that.

The natural right is to privacy. Property derives from that. So the government is created to help protect your privacy against invasion or violation (theft).

So it seems that a pirate interferes with a merchant’s monopoly and with a merchant’s invasion of individuals’ privacy.

yungchin said 3773 days ago :

@j dudley: when you say “You do not have a ‘natural right’ to take what belongs to others”, you imply that copyright is a natural right.

Let’s check that: if you publish a poem on your website, and I copy it to mine, did I take what belongs to you? It’s still on your website. Rather, I violated your copyright – if there’s a law that defines that.

@Crosbie Fitch: I don’t understand how merchants in exercising their copyright invade our privacy? Could you put that in less formal terms?

Crosbie Fitch said 3773 days ago :

I don’t think I said that they invade our privacy through exercising their copyright. I suggested that ‘pirate’ was the label merchants applied to those that interfered with their commercial activities, e.g. by infringing their reproduction monopolies or thwarting their monitoring of individuals’ browsing of the Internet.

In the latter case, the individuals were under the impression that their web browsing was private to them, their ISP and the websites they visited. To many users, Phorm’s monitoring of the websites they visit is seen as an invasion of their privacy.

I didn’t actally say Phorm was invading anyone’s privacy, nor was I attempting to define this situation as a clear example of privacy invasion. It would have been though, if Phorm hadn’t voluntarily been made privy by the ISP, or the ISP had a privacy policy that promised no disclosure.

Compare with an example only involving individuals: the case of a couple who hire a courier to deliver receipted invitations to their wedding. If the courier provides a merchant with details of each recipient, then this would be seen by the couple as a dishonourable indiscretion on the part of the courier – it would not be a privacy invasion by the merchant. On the other hand, if the merchant had stolen a copy of the courier’s guestlist whilst they weren’t looking, then it would have been.

So you see, copyright doesn’t necessarily come into it. However, in addition to profiling for advertising, the protection of copyright is one of the other motives that might lead a merchant into taking the opportunity to monitor users’ Internet use, e.g. to collect evidence of infringement for future prosecution.

yungchin said 3771 days ago :

Ok, thanks, now I get it. So these are two different kinds of pirate in one definition – the copyright-violaters and the privacy-protectors.

To me it’s confusing to bundle the two different concepts into one definition. And I agree with the first comment here: it seems in your example the privacy-infringer is Phorm; so it is more intuitive to define them as the privacy-pirates.

Note that protecting your privacy is typically not illegal under current law, whereas breaking copyright is.

As for the “copyright-pirates”: given that old-school pirates do infringe on our natural rights, I think it’s perverse to call copyright-violators pirates.

Crosbie Fitch said 3771 days ago :

> Ok, thanks, now I get it. So these are two different
> kinds of pirate in one definition – the copyright-violaters
> and the privacy-protectors.

Yes, though I’d say liberty-protectors, rather than copyright infringers. :)

> To me it’s confusing to bundle the two different concepts
> into one definition.

I sympathise, but I am simply noting there is some coherence in both uses of the term ‘pirate’.

Those who assert their natural rights are pirates (in merchants’ eyes), whether to liberty or to privacy.

> And I agree with the first comment here:
> it seems in your example the privacy-infringer is Phorm; so
> it is more intuitive to define them as the privacy-pirates.

But, Phorm is the lawful merchant. The pirates are those who thwart their mercenary and unethical, albeit legal trade (trampling over the public’s natural rights to liberty and privacy).

> Note that protecting your privacy is typically not illegal
> under current law, whereas breaking copyright is.

Sure.

> As for the “copyright-pirates”: given that old-school pirates
> do infringe on our natural rights, I think it’s perverse to
> call copyright-violators pirates.

Pirates may well have had psychopaths among their number throughout the long history of this term, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have always been more libertine than libertarian. And let’s not forget, ‘pirate’ is a label chosen largely by the monopolist. As with ‘queer’, libertarians might as well wear the label of ‘pirate’ with pride and demonstrate its sound ethical basis (see A Pirate’s Code – 21st Century Edition).

yungchin said 3771 days ago :

> I sympathise, but I am simply noting there is some
> coherence in both uses of the term ‘pirate’.
>
> Those who assert their natural rights are pirates (in
> merchants’ eyes), whether to liberty or to privacy.

To me that doesn’t make the definition less confusing :)
I’d say that the merchants are terribly confused in their
choice of the label “pirate”, and adopting their choices just
furthers the confusion.

> But, Phorm is the lawful merchant. The pirates are those who
> thwart their mercenary and unethical, albeit legal trade

I understand that this is so under the definition you propose,
but I was contesting the intuitiveness of that definition :)

> Pirates may well have had psychopaths among their number
> throughout the long history of this term, but that doesn’t
> necessarily mean they have always been more libertine than
> libertarian.

This implies we associate different connotations with the word
piracy… very difficult to find any agreement then :)

A Stevenson said 3659 days ago :

J Dudley: What is not scarce, what can be replicated infinately at no extra cost, nobody has the right to exclude others from. The creators have the right to be credited for their work… and that’s it.



 

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