Pirate LogoThe Pirate's Dilemma


Archive for March, 2009

We Tell Stories wins Best of Show at SXSW


Last year I was lucky enough to work on an amazing digital writing project for Penguin called We Tell Stories. I’ve just heard that last night at the prestigious SXSW Web Awards, We Tell Stories picked up the award for ‘experimentation’ (‘cutting-edge and trend-setting destinations that are pushing the envelope and challenging our perceptions of the web’) and, astonishingly, the Best of Show award (‘The judges’ favorite finalist website from the competition’) beating competition from Flickr and Hulu amongst others. Woah. Really proud to have been a part of this, and really glad Penguin (and in particular Jeremy Ettinghausen, the brains behind the project) is bravely pushing digital storytelling in new directions. The story I put together (an infographic novel based on Hard Times by Charles Dickens – toughest brief of my life) with ace designer Nicholas Felton is here.

Street Fighter II Turbo Battle Vinyl

Street Fighter II Turbo Battle Vinyl

Via Hypebeast

After a long morning reading various accounts of corporate copyright douche-baggery, I needed some cheering up. This did the trick. Not only is this piece of vinyl totally awesome in every possible way, it’s also a great piece of marketing for Street Fighter IV.

Sue your fans, they’ll wage war against you. Give them battle weapons, they’ll go out and fight for you.

Warner Music’s Takedown Net Snares Babies


via the EFF:

“Warner Music’s automated takedown net has now caught two videos of little kids being little kids.

“Of course we can’t show you the videos since they’re, well, censored, but the YouTomb snapshots tell most of the story. One showed a 4 year old lip-syncing to the old Foreigner hit, “Juke Box Hero.” The other apparently showed a baby smacking its lips to the tune of “I Love My Lips”—a song originally sung by a cucumber in an episode of “Veggie Tales.” Both videos are obvious fair uses (these are transformative, noncommercial videos that are not substitutes for the original songs, and there is no plausible market for “licensing” parents before they video their own children singing) and perfectly legal—just like the video of a baby dancing to a Prince song that Universal Music Group took down in 2007.”

Not cool. Honestly, it depresses me that it’s 2009 and we as a society are still arguing about this bullshit. All the answers to these problems are there. There is so much money not being earned by artists and labels and studios and networks because a handful of people are still making bad decisions and cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s time for one of the large players to do something really different and show everyone else it can be done.

Thru You

Thru You

ThruYou by Kutiman is one of the most mesmerizing mash-up projects I’ve seen. The artist spent countless hours sifting through YouTube clips of (mostly) unknown musicians and vocalists, looking for snippets of sound and film that would fit together perfectly, turning unrelated morsels of talent into a synced-up symphonies of awesome.

VJing is getting ever more sophisticated (something I talk about a lot with dubstep VJ and good pal Vector Meldrew) as the tools of media manipulation become ever-more accessible. One-way media and culture is no longer a relevant idea. What we have now is a jigsaw that can and should be continuously remade and built upon. Figuring out the legalities of all this remains something of a puzzle as well, but Kutiman’s ThruYou project alone is reason enough to update copyright laws.

Below is ‘I’m New’, my favourite of his tracks. You can (and should) check out the rest at ThruYou.

The Boat That Rocked

Wouldn’t have put money on Richard Curtis to be the person to make Pirate Radio: The Movie, but here it is. And it actually looks ok, they did a good job on the ship. Glad they got the Hoff involved. If it does well, who knows, maybe the Sealand Movie will finally get out of development hell too…


I was sent this great presentation on fakes by the good people at Trendbüro, a consultancy for social change based in Germany. It’s an eye-opening insight into the world of counterfeit goods, which is now a global industry twice the size of Wal-Mart, and they offer sound advice on how companies can win the war on fakes. If you read this blog regularly or read the book, you probably know the answer already.

Why I haven’t been blogging relentlessly about The Pirate Bay trial…


via XKCD

I keep getting asked The Pirate Bay trial and although I’ve talked about it several times in interviews, I’ve not said much here. The main reason is I don’t think there is that much to say until we get a verdict.

This is an example of industries fighting pirates when they should be competing with them, and in this case, probably working directly with them. The parties on both sides of this case have very fuzzy arguments and in the long term this case will make absolutely no difference. It’s distracting the content industries from what they should be doing: Creating new licenses and royalty schemes that make online piracy a moot point. As long as they are distracted, content creators everywhere will just have to make do with outdated, broken business models.

We know the opinions of those on both sides of this, and they both presented pretty weak cases. The prosecution didn’t have any evidence The Pirate Bay has done anything illegal. No numbers, no damning reports, it was pathetic. Meanwhile The Pirate Bay didn’t present the strong moral case they’ve always claimed to stand behind. As Wired put it, the trial revealed The Pirate Bay “as an empty vessel — a rudderless ghost ship navigating without a guiding principle; existing for no other reason than because it can.” It exists because it can, but mostly it exists because the market has failed to come up with an alternative. This trial won’t change that.

None of this is new. If The Pirate Bay lose, (and they haven’t done anything any less legal than what Google does, so they probably won’t) then the file-sharing world will be temporarily disrupted. But file-sharing will of course bounce back, stronger than ever if history is anything to go by.

They should win, and as much as I disagree with the moral case, I sincerely hope they do. Because that could mean it’s finally time for the content industries to start working with people like The Pirate Bay instead of carrying on with all this ridiculous handbag-swinging. And that’s when things will get interesting, and better, for everyone involved.


The Element.

Sir Ken Robinson is an amazing guy. I keep nearly meeting him at conferences we’re both at, but never quite do. His new book The Element, which he talks about here at the RSA in London, sounds fantastic. It’s about diversity of human talent, and three arguments run through it:

1. Finding purpose in your work is essential to knowing who you really are.

2. Growth and development is non-linear. Education should not be a mechanistic process.

3. Human talent isn’t lying on the surface, it’s often buried deep inside.

Like Gladwell’s most recent outing, Robinson looks at success within different environments. Looking forward to cracking this.

E-mail It