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Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow

Pirate Cinema

by Cory Doctorow

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5914524,464 (3.71)18
  1. 10
    Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (PghDragonMan)
  2. 10
    Makers by Cory Doctorow (PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: Big corporations seek to control creativity and the creative forces strike back.
  3. 00
    Junk by Melvin Burgess (kaledrina)

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Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
I really dig Cory Doctorow. He is fighting the good fight on behalf of us all. He is one of the few individuals in the world who has the clout to appear in mainstream media in order to talk about copyright issues, a task which would otherwise be left completely in the hands of bigcorp mouthpieces. This is why I support his work in every way possible and also why I think this book is a must read if you care about these issues (and if you don't, you must be living under a rock).

However, his writing leaves quite a bit to be desired, as far as novels go anyways, as his articles are usually quite lucid and to the point. But perhaps that is part of the problem - in fiction, you need more subtlety, something that is sorely lacking in this overview of what society would be like if big media corporations got their way on copyright issues. Now, admittedly, this is partly due to the fact that the narrator is the protagonist itself, a British teenager called Trent who ends up on the wrong side of an insane copyright law, which gets his family disconnected from the internet with incredibly dire consequences. His father loses his telecommuting job, mom can no longer apply for social programs from home and his brilliant sister is unable to do research for school properly and is propelled on a path of mediocrity. Trent leaves home out of shame and begins squatting in London, where he meets a couple of friends who share his view. Maybe they can do something about this whole mess...

Obviously, from his standpoint the issue is completely black and white - the other side (the copyright enforcers and the companies who buy them) are complete bad guys with no redeemable features whatsoever. And while I kind of agree with that world view myself, perhaps a slightly harder effort put into explaining or at least presenting the other side of the issue would be of a benefit to the reader, unless your entire goal is to preach to the choir. And at times it all does sound kind of preachy.

There are other minor annoying things, like the fact that all the women in Pirate Cinema are completely brilliant and super cool to boot, while most of the guys are complete bunglers. Well, maybe that's how it is in the real world after all.

Doctorow, on the other hand, excels in other things. I think his depiction of society under such laws is not too far off, if not darn right spot on. Also, obviously he is an internet age adept and his descriptions of technical issues are credible and exact as far as those that already exist are concerned and plausible for made-up stuff.

Now if he could just add some nuance and depth both to his characters and his issues, we'd have a voice of the internet generation on our hands, folks. ( )
  matija2019 | Jan 8, 2019 |
There are lots of clever ideas and bits of storytelling in here, but the whole thing falls kind of flat. The passionate defense of remix culture can get a bit didactic and still remain unconvincing. The characters make speeches but never engage in real argument about the copyright issues central to the book. If the villains represent a counterpoint, it's a straw man. And I think it's funny that the book, while released under a creative common license, is specifically licensed for no derivatives. ( )
  DanCopulsky | Jul 7, 2017 |
'Pirate Cinema' extrapolates curent copyright laws and imagines how the world could be if content owners continue to schmoose our elected representatives and continue ever extend the breadth and duration of copyright. After falling foul of draconian laws, pirate filmmaker Trent McCauley flees to London, and with the assistace of a ragtag army of artists and misfits, tries to make a difference. Cory Doctorow has the novel available for free on his website. ( )
  orkydd | Feb 2, 2017 |
Typical leftist Doctrow, but well written enough that the politics can be ignored in favor of the story. ( )
  bensdad00 | Jan 10, 2017 |
"If it's just theft, then why do they need to get their laws passed in the dead of the night, without debate or discussion?" - 26 in Pirate Cinema

There's something more than a little bit After School Special-ish about Pirate Cinema, I'm afraid. Well, let's say half After-School Special and half Steal This Book. With maybe a little of some sunny Oliver!-ish can-do musical extravaganza thrown in here and there. Which is to say that in a lot of ways, the didactic agenda of this novel gets noticeably in the way of the story a little too often to make this a genuinely enjoyable read. And however praiseworthy that agenda may be, a novel-length parable illustrating its importance is a bit much.

But! Fear not, for the bits where we don't feel the author sitting next to us and preaching at us (and let me just get it out there right now: I sing an enthusiastic tenor in every performance of the choir to whom Cory Doctorow is preaching) are pretty good, though in some ways that almost makes it worse -- they're good enough to just make the reader ache for an edit of this book with maybe at least some of the finger-wagging cut out or cut down.

I wonder how Doctorow, champion of remix culture, culture jamming, sharing, and all the other ideas that are illustrated in this book, would feel about such an edit, though? On the one hand, his work would be getting watered down, stripped of a lot of its political message and used as mere entertainment, and thus maybe undermining that message; on the other, well, it would be a remix like any other. Another fan might choose to edit out all of the teenage romance and cheerful "we can do it" remodeling/repurposing/squat claiming stuff and just leave the expounding dialogues in place to educate everyone about the dangers of copyright maximalism and the move to privatize free expression and bring all media under corporate control.

Actually, as I consider it, I would probably enjoy reading either of those edits, at least more than I enjoyed reading this novel.

That's not to say it's a horrible novel; it's not. Doctorow has considerable narrative skill and has populated his story with a host of very charming characters, young punks all, lovable scamps with talent and creativity and technical know-how (and, in more than a few cases, an impressive knowledge of property law, both intellectual and real). One would have to have a heart of stone not to root for Trent and his girlfriend 26*, Jem and Rabid Dog, Cora and Aziz and all the rest**. Especially since their foes are so faceless, so nameless as to not even be human at all: Paramount, Universal, Disney-Marvel, Virgin -- you get the idea.

Trent and co. live in an absolute copyright dystopia that takes things even further than that depicted in my good friend Paul Laroquod's Swap Thing videos. If you want to see a movie on the big screen, you not only have to fork out the cash for a ticket, but also subject yourself to metal detectors, searches, and temporary confiscation of any personal electronics you've been dumb enough to bring. Download too many illegal files off the internet and you can have your entire family's access cut off for a whole year. And all that's even before yet another piece of draconian legislation gets passed that imposes, among other things, mandatory minimum jail sentences for being caught in possession of any music, photos, films or other files you can't prove you obtained 100% legally.

Enter our hero, Trent, a teenaged kid who happens to be a very talented video editor, and to be, as teenagers are, utterly disinclined to wait until he's done with school and has been hired and vetted by a corporate overlord to sanction/pay for/control his exercise of his talents, anymore than a kid who was good at a sport would wait for a professional league to discover him before playing that sport. Of course, as we've established, Trent does not live in a world that acknowledges or respects this equivalency; it is as if a promising young basketball player got busted and banned for enjoying some pick-up games on the playground, sharing his ball and the court and his knowledge of the rules and the history of the sport with other kids freely being suddenly banned from ever touching any ball or court or uniform, perhaps even any spectator's seat at a game, ever again.

I know, ridiculous, right? What's to stop such a kid from, say, stealing a ball from a sporting goods store and shooting some hoops on a deserted playground in the dead of night? Maybe even teaming up with other people who got busted and starting a secret club where they head off to a secret cobbled-together court somewhere to indulge their shared passion.***

That's pretty much what Trent does. When a third copyright offense, logged as he finishes his latest mash-up masterpiece on his laptop at his parents' house, triggers the harshest penalty -- his entire household, parents and sister and all, being banned from the internet for an entire year -- Trent runs away and goes rogue, joining up with a bunch of other similarly banned/punished people to continue doing what they love outside of/under mainstream society, hacking hardware to circumvent the latest crufted-on copyright protection cripples, remixing films and books and music into their own weird new creations, throwing parties in which their artwork is freely shared and enjoyed by anyone cool enough and smart enough to be willing to put in the time to find out where to go and how to do it.

Ahh, hackers. Ahh, culture jammers. How are they not lovable? Romantic? Quixotic? Charming? Plucky? And yet also, somehow boring. They always get along. They always make things happen. Hell, even the parents and other adults like and encourage them, even 26's parents, who tell Trent it's just fine that he sleeps over in their 17-year-old-daughter's bedroom. With her. Even if they don't sleep. Wink wink. Really?

After a while, even the important jeopardy -- the big bad so big and so bad and so important that Doctorow couldn't allow even the ghost of any other kind of conflict so that even the neighborhood drug dealers where Trent squats are nice and friendly and helpful -- feels unreal and inchoate. The corporate sharks are swimming out there in the deep water, watchful and hungry, but our carefree happy little heroes stick to the shallows and frolick away, and just occasionally chuck some chum out to sea out of sheer exuberance.

Don't get me wrong; I had fun reading this at times. But I could never just immerse myself in the story, between the preaching and the excessive benevolence of the book's universe. In the end, I found that for all my love of Doctorow and what he does, I didn't ever feel like I was this book's audience.

But I'm not sure who is.

*Yeah, that's really her name. Sometimes people call her Twenty for short.

**Not that they need much rooting for.

***You sports fans should all take a moment and contemplate with gratitude the fact that, as dickheaded as the NBA, NFL, FIFA, etc. can be, they haven't to date tried to get play not under their aegis banned by law. ( )
2 vote KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |
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In a dystopian, near-future Britain, sixteen-year-old Trent, obsessed with making movies on his computer, joins a group of artists and activists who are trying to fight a new bill that will criminalize even more harmless internet creativity.

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