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Continuing the discussion introduced in lecture on Wednesday, I ponder the intricacies of piracy and Lessig’s ethical qualms regarding “taking value from someone else” without their permission. Indeed, a huge emphasis has been placed on tackling the problem of copyright, plagiarism, and piracy; to the moral end of protecting the liberal, Western idea of property rights. In anticipation of Locke, I wonder at the circumstance of Shakespeare, who evidently, or at least allegedly, stole much of his work from other playwrights:

However much one cannot measure the counterfactual of this hypothetical, what if Shakespeare had not stolen those ideas? Is it possible that maybe if he had acted ethically that none of his great plays, which have deservedly entered the canon of English literature, would have come into existence and that none of those stories would have been passed down for the great benefit of society? Similarly, the example of Mickey Mouse was offered in class. What if something as iconic as Mickey Mouse never came into existence? I’m by no means advocating for or endorsing plagiarism, but it is apparent that at some arbitrary point plagiarism works in fact to contribute to humanity and to society. In as much as the pirate “renders impossible the difference between the authorized and the unauthorized copy, spreading information and culture, and devaluing intellectual property at the same time,” the pirate also proliferates the opportunities that some next great contribution to society might be discovered.

To exemplify this consequence, open information, as Philips suggests, functions as a sort of “electronic commons.” This necessarily connotes the problematic Tragedy of the Commons, giving rise to the idea that regulation is necessary to maintain resources. The difference, however, is that in the case of electronic space, there is no shortage of resources to exploit and to make bare. Philips contrasts the idea of “localizable content” with this forum-esque, seemingly infinite environment of “electronic commons” that allows for the development of “shared meanings.” Suggesting the vastness of interpretation and criticism, the shared meanings that result from analyzing open information, which is made available by the pirate, are a critic’s way of translating into “another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things” (to quote Oscar Wilde). Piracy, for all its negative associations, creates an environment in which information can be expounded upon, and I find it difficult to find the expansion of knowledge as an objectively problematic circumstance. Perhaps a more passing concern for property protection is the better perspective to accept in order to expand the knowledge base, necessarily for the betterment of societal strength and consciousness.