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In his piece “Porous Legalities,” Liang argues that a new configuration of the liberal binary of legal/illegal in regards to intellectual property must be developed – a new theory of “porous legality” that takes into account the complex economic and social forces that have led to the massive rise – and public indifference – of software piracy. For Liang, the discourse surrounding Internet piracy has been simplistic and reductive, reducing it to a predominantly legal – or even worse, moral – issue; however, in Liang’s conception, the rise of piracy, particularly in non-Western countries, must be analyzed in relation to the growing tide of globalization that has left legality in flux. As Liang expounds, here the field of urban studies becomes a telling window into the issue; for Liang, the metaphor of the “illegal city” – the unplanned, unaccounted for, and illegal residences that crop up around the “old city” in countries such as India, lends a key answer to the complex question of piracy. In these planned cities, only 15-20% of the housing need is met by the planning authorities – meaning the existence of the “illegal city” starts to stretch the limits of the concept of “illegality.”  Faced with no access to legal housing, migrants and other inhabitants of the “new city” are part of what Ravi Sundarum calls “a bleeding culture” – placed into the arbitrarily illegal sphere by the imbalance of power and control in the housing sector.


These same principles can be applied to the rise of “the illegal media city”; for Liang, the rise of piracy in these non-Western countries must itself be analyzed in light of the structures of imbalance of control over and access to technological and cultural products. This techno-inequality, a product of rapid globalization that has been spurred by broader access to the Internet, means that piracy becomes a much more complex issue than a simple legal and moral black or white. Indeed, like the planned “old city” and the illegal “new city,” for Liang the rise of piracy can be read as a means “through which people ordinarily left out of the imagination of modernity, technology and the global economy find ways of inserting themselves into these networks” (Liang, 12).