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In her article “What is a techno author,” Kavita Philip interrogates the concept of an author in the context of modern rip/mix/burn culture, asking “who can speak as an author at the precise time that authorship emerges as an attribute of autonomous subjects?” (Philip, 207) She is questioning understandings of authorship, of authors existing as autonomous subjects. For this she draws from Michel Foucault’s work “What is An Author.” Foucault’s discussion of the author challenges the notion of the author as an origin. In this decentered theoretical understanding, the author emerges as a variable and complex function of discourse. Philip applies this understanding to the pirate, suggesting that “at this historical moment, a particular confluence of digital coping, its affiliated modes of creativity, a ‘crisis’ in bourgeois legalities and culture apparently precipitated by the telecom and digital revolutions, and the space-time compression of global cultures and economies, creates the conditions for the public recognition of the fragmented ‘author functions’ that Foucault identified.” (Philip, 205)

In this regard, we have two interpretations of the pirate. There is the pirate as autonomous subject, and there is the pirate as a function of this historical moment in discourse. What is at stake in both considerations? I would like to consider these questions specifically with regards to contemporary art practices, for so-called “pirates” are not the only individuals engaging in this digital rip/mix/burn culture. A number of contemporary artists use digital material in their works. For example, the artist Cory Arcangel created a work of Nintendo game cartridge hacks. Indeed, many new media artists appropriate material from the digital world. Are they considered pirates? Where do we draw the line between sampling and stealing? How does appropriation and hacking for artistic practices differ from appropriation and hacking in so-called “pirating” practices? In what ways do such new media artists further complicate the notion of the author-function?