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


208 pages.
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Hardcover ISBN: 9781503611443
Paperback ISBN: 9781503612976
Ebook ISBN: 9781503612983

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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 might prohibit it, but piracy remains 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, policymakers, 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 twenty-first century capitalism generates piracy and its enforcement simultaneously, 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

"Digital Pirates is a fascinating look at how protection of IP came to have local traction in an emerging economy even as enforcers themselves participated in and lauded piracy."

—Laura-Zoë Humphreys, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute