Posted by & filed under Pirates & Politics. one comment

With the flood of #CISPA-related noisemaking quieting down, I’d like to remind you – yes YOU writers, readers, and netizen friends – why you should still care about what’s happening in Congress right now. Regardless of where this particular piece of legislation ends up, the atmosphere of an internet-phobic government poses a very real danger to all of us.

Even aside from it’s privacy violations, overbroad categorization of activities as “threats”, and complete disregard for due process, CISPA is a worrying indication of the absurd contradictions in our messy internet legislation, and the complete breakdown of communications between the internet users and their legislators.

While obsessively following all CISPA coverage last week, one small problem caught my eye. This one small problem stood out in a sea of many because it flew in the face of previous internet legislation that has been getting a lot of press this year: the wildly overreaching Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (#CFAA).

One of the (many) problems with the CFAA is that it takes violations of terms of service and turns them into (potential) massive criminal offenses carrying years in prison. It was this legislation that was used in the vicious and wildly disproportional bullying of Aaron Swartz  – bullying that ultimately led to his death.

CISPA on the other hand was deliberately formed to allow for terms of service violations. In the one move that could have partially redeemed the legislation, an amendment was proposed that would prevent individuals, in particular employees and job candidates, from being forced to give up passwords to their personal social media accounts. Though not a common practice, the fact that it has happened shows it to be a very real threat – and one which is a blatant violation of the terms of service of those same social media sites. Take a look at what Facebook’s terms have to say about passwords:

“You will not share your password (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.”

That’s a pretty unequivocal laying down of the law – not to mention common sense. Don’t share your password. It puts you and anyone you’re FB friends with at risk. Don’t do it. Seriously. Don’t.

CISPA seemed to agree with this.

Until, of course, the provision to protect individuals from this kind of abuse was defeated.

Again, this is one of many aspects of CISPA that put internet users (read: everybody) at risk. But what really stands out about this one small detail is the blatant contradiction we would have on the books if the bill passed into law. Add CISPA to CFAA we have a pair of laws saying simultaneously:

Any violation of terms of service can be a criminal violation landing you years in prison.

and

Terms of service may be violated at will in the workplace.

The most worrying part is that individuals – aka Congress’s constituency – get the short end of the stick every time. When an individual is circumventing the terms of service, they are criminals and can spend years in prison. But put the power in someone else’s hands, say an employer, and that same individual can be coerced to give up their personal information – in violation of those same terms of service.

How do legislators reconcile this inconsistency?

As the Twitterverse has shown, many leap to malice as the explanation, and blame the slow but deliberate slide towards a police state for harmful legislation. I won’t say they’re wrong. But, the reality, I think, is both simpler and much, much more worrying: foolishness. A bumbling and scared Congress responds to very real threats – identity theft, hacking, espionage – by fumbling with solutions that they simply do not understand.

With any luck, CISPA will be dead in the water before reaching Obama’s desk. However the endemic cluelessness and misplaced hysteria demonstrated by this type of legislation is very much alive. The contradictions in CISPA and the CFAA do not simply reflect two different approaches, like say legislation on revitalizing the economy.  It does not even reflect diametrically opposing moral positions, like, for instance, abortion or capital punishment debates do. Rather, it reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of that which is being legislated.

This is scary.

Why should you be scared?

Because you’re here.

Our contracts, the explicit and implicit agreements we make every day on the internet, are ubiquitous in our society. Our personal lives, our professional lives, our social identity, our goal paths, our self-education, and enjoyment of life…. all of these things intersect with the digital world on a daily basis. Whether we are digital natives glued to the screen or we’re just trying to get a job, we can’t avoid intersections. The cluelessness in Congress and the messy laws growing out of it affect all of us, whether we want it to or not.

The basic provisions for privacy and due process have been defended and upheld for centuries as pillars of modern democracy. But as soon as the internet enters the picture, these rights fall by the wayside. Bad as that sounds, I don’t want to attribute malice here. I don’t think that it’s either accurate or useful to forget the part that plain old confusion and ignorance play in overreaching and nonsensical laws.

And the only thing that combats ignorance and confusion is communication.

So even if CISPA dies, remember it for when the next contradiction comes through Congress. And don’t ever stay silent.

Posted by & filed under Reading and Reviewing, Writing and Writers. 3 comments

HELLO (AGAIN) BLOGOSPHERE!

*Hugs* to both my new TUEBLovers and my old Cheapass readers!

This blog has been quiet! Before the TUEBL transformation and the CISPA call-to-arms, it was almost a MONTH since the last post o_O I was off wandering the 3D world a while. But don’t worry! This prodigal netizen has come back to the digital fold. The offline world is beautiful, thrilling, and good for the Vitamin D reserves, but it’s also exhausting, expensive, and just so… physical.

In the Lost Month outside of the Internets, I went off to dig holes in the middle of nowhere. This was my office for March and April:

WorkSorry for the crappy quality. (TUEBL’s Librarian-In-Chief is trying to convince me to give up my grandma phones and get one with a real camera. BUT, while love the digital world, I’m not a gadget girl. Plus, I really want to avoid becoming one of those people on the news who runs into bears and water fountains while glued to the phone!) A better camera would also have better documented my next offline adventure: a roadtrip into the Great Northern Expanse of COLD (You may know it as Canada?) The GORGEOUS Montreal, where I went after I was done digging up cornfields, was more than worthy of a good camera! Not to mention the countryside, old neighborhoods, gorgeous campuses, maple syrup, Parliaments, and Pirates along the way would have been worth a picture or two. But you’ll just have to take my word for it: the Great Northern Expanse of COLD is a pretty cool place.

Still, it IS nice to be back home in the world of 1s and 0s!

And I’m happy to put my dereliction-of-blogging-duties days behind me. With CheapassFiction’s transformation to acting TUEBL blog, I’m excited to deliver better and more reader- and writer-focused content to the blogosphere.

BUT I need YOUR help with that! 

Ready for your assignment? Here it is: I’ll need your opinions, thoughts, comments and considerations in my efforts to bring more of the following to this blog:

1. Author guest posts & interviews

Who doesn’t love to hear from their favorite authors? I know I definitely do. Both the reader and writer in me love hearing the story that’s not between the covers – the story of the person behind the book. Indie authors especially have a multitude of new and diverse experiences with the writing and publishing game, and I’d love to bring more of them here to tell their stories.

2. Book Reviews

The internet, collectively, is the biggest library humanity has ever had access to. We have a constant stream of stories coming at us – not to mention the entire history of literature all available at our fingertips. How the hell are we supposed to find the good stuff in all of that?  It’s easy: we talk about it! That’s why book reviews are at the heart of any thriving community of readers.

So here’s your task:

I want to give YOU the opportunity to weigh in on the books/ authors/ genres/ themes/ topics that YOU want to hear more about! What authors do you want to hear from? What awkward and thorny questions do you want to ask them? What books do you think could use a review? What underrated/niche/too-weird-for-mainstream books and genres do you think should get a spot here? What overrated/popular/sick-of-hearing-about-it books and genres do think actually should be talked about?

Let me know in the comments, or come find me on twitter @CheapassFiction

:-)

~A.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized. 4 comments

Hi there!

I’m Aelius.

I write.

I’m also an avid TUEBL fan. You know that Facebook page everyone checks for the latest library news/panic/oh-my-god-where-is-TUEBL moments? I made that. After false DMCA takedowns (sent to Facebook…….. where exactly zero books are kept o_O ) forced the official page offline, I wanted to make sure that readers and writers still had a place to talk. Being both reader and writer myself, the library’s always been an important place for me, and I make sure my books have a spot on TUEBL’s digital shelves as soon as they come out.

Also, I blog.

About writing. About reading. About reading– and writing–related politics. About life. About dragons and Bruce Willis and Farscape and semi-colons and Sweden and incomprehensible acronym-ed internet legislation and………

Oh, and TUEBL.

Which is why I’m saying a big HI to all the TUEBLovers out there today!

I’m not the only blogger ever to cover TUEBL. But, I am one of the few doing it so regularly and effusively. And, since our Librarian-In-Chief is busy making sure our beloved library stays afloat, I’ve taken over TUEBL blogging duties.  Cheapassfiction is now the “official” TUEBL blog. At least, as official as things get here.

So, welcome!

This is just one more place where TUEBL readers and writers are free to congregate and share stories, news, and lulz.

See you around!

~A.

 

Posted by & filed under Publishing and Publishers. 6 comments

This week, in the quest to get my books free on Amazon, I wrote to them asking if they could speed up the process. For anyone curious about the behind-the-scenes process, here are the letters. This will be updated as (/if) I get more responses. (Also, if you still want to help me by telling Amazon about a lower price, PLEASE do! (Here’s how)

The letters, mine and Amazon’s:

Original Letter 3/22/13

Hi there, Kindle help!

I’ve had books in the Kindle store since late 2011. Despite these books being free on Smashwords,  not one of them has gone free on Amazon. I am particularly concerned about my latest book here, being the one that I am currently focused on marketing: www.amazon.com/Skyland-One-Abominations-ebook/dp/B00AQQE324

Competitive pricing is extremely important to small-time authors trying to get their work out. And as long as Amazon’s price is anything higher than Smashwords, I can’t direct readers here. That means missing out on reviews, recommendations, and downloads from many Amazon customers.

This sucks. Can Amazon do anything to speed up its price matching magic?

Aelius Blythe
My books on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Aelius-Blythe/e/B0095JGJJ8
My books on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AeliusBlythe

Amazon’s response 3/22/13 (say what you want about Amazon, but they do reply FAST!)

Hello Aelius,

Thank you for your information on pricing. From time to time, we may match free promotions on other sales channels, but we retain discretion over our retail prices.

In the future, you can let us know about lower prices through our website by clicking the link to “Tell us about a lower price” under the “Product Details” section for your title. Please be sure to specify all of the websites which are selling the book at a lower price.

Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

My response 3/23/13

Hi Kindle people, thanks for the fast response!

See, what worries me is that for over a year I have been doing exactly that – clicking the “Tell us about a lower price”. I have also had some readers do that as well. (Incidentally, some people have reported that they get an error message when they do this…)

I get that Amazon has the final say over the price – that’s a fair tradeoff for the amazing and free services you provide. It’s just somewhat frustrating that, after reporting lower prices and seeing no result, it seems like the books that do go free are a completely random selection…..

Aelius Blythe

Not sure if that last one will get a response, since I didn’t actually ask anything. Will update if I do… EDIT: Oh wait, never mind! They did respond…..

Amazon Response 3/24/13

Hello Aelius,

Thanks for your comments about the “Tell us about a lower price” not being effective. We’ll consider your input as we plan further improvements.

Please know that we may match free promotions on other sales channels, but we retain discretion over our retail prices.

However I’ve checked for your book and I’m not able to find your book quoted for a lower price anywhere. So if you could please write back to us with the link of that website where your book is available for a lower price than what it is set in Amazon, we may proceed further.

Thanks for using Amazon KDP!

Posted by & filed under Publishing and Publishers. 15 comments

As many of you already know, earlier this year my book Skyland Book I: Abominations came to rest quietly on the digital shelves. Now, it needs your help. I need your help. After some… uh… disagreements over distribution in the Smashwords catalogue – which distributes to all the major online ebook retailers – Skyland was published separately to Amazon, which accepts public domain books like mine.

Skyland CoverAmazon is an important place for authors. It’s one of the biggest online marketplaces for books and a recognized and convenient marketplace for readers, reviewers, and vendors alike. One-click shopping, ranking algorithms, and also-bought recommendations give books a much wider reach and a chance to stand out in the chaos and also give readers a good chance of finding things they like. I like Amazon. But I also like my ebooks free.

With Skyland still free on Smashwords, Amazon’s price matching magic should make it free in their catalogue too. However, their magic can be slow. Of course, authors can report lower prices themselves, but this doesn’t always speed things up and sometimes result in the book being removed completely! My hope is that more voices mean more of a response. What brings more weight to the argument is if readers do this as well.

AmazonPriceMatch1So how can you help? Tell Amazon to match the Smashwords price! Here’s how:

1. Go to Skyland‘s page on Amazon.

2. Scroll down Product Details

3. Click on Tell us about a lower price.

4. Input the address of Skyland’s Smashwords page and the price of $0.00

5. Feel good about helping an indie author!

😀

With Skyland Book II fast approaching, I’m eager to resolve all publishing problems. Publishing (at least, doing it well!) sure as hell isn’t easy sometimes – especially when you like to rock the boat. That’s why I’m offering my eternal gratitude to anyone who can take a couple minutes and do this! You can help out with just a few clicks…… 

And if you really want to help this author share this post, tweet it, like it, and as always, share, share, share!

Eternal Thanks.

~A.

P.S. For the moment, it’s Skyland that I really want to go free because Book II is on its way, BUT  if you have a few extra minutes and are in need of extra good karma you can let Amazon know that my other titles are free too!

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized. 2 comments

No.

TUEBL is just fine.

But six-strikes rumors have sent a chill through the ebookworm community. For those who missed it, the United States’ six-strikes schemes, like it’s foreign cousins the threestrikes, is a plan hatched between the copyright industries (read: Hollywood, Record Labels, and other non-artist middlemen) to stop people downloading and sharing art for free. The gist of the scheme is: get caught with illegal downloads six times and….. something bad will happen to you. It’s all a little hazy. Not all ISPs are participating, and those that are have varying plans to enforce the scheme, ranging reeducation courses to disconnection. While these schemes are fighting against something which is very often beneficial to artists and also a human right, the sad fact it that their aggressive, anti-artist rhetoric built on shakey arguments has had a good run at driving a wedge between fans and the creative content they love.

Here’s the good news: TUEBL bookworms have nothing to worry about.

TUEBL_DMCA_TAKEDOWNTUEBL is legal.

While our e-librarians love sharing as much as the next avid reader, in order to keep bringing books to readers all over the world, TUEBL must survive. That’s why TUEBL has one of the strictest DMCA policies out there – stricter even than YouTube or Google. For even the mildly literate, the DMCA-compliant takedown process is easy to follow: after clicking on the DMCA Takedown button – clearly marked under every book – the author or authorized party can put in basic information to ensure they have the right to the book in question. After that, the book is gone. Yes, it may be uploaded again – TUEBL is user-driven and doesn’t control what its readers upload (just like YouTube…) but the process is simple enough that it maintains accountability, prevents abuse, and keeps TUEBL on the right side of the law.

Yes, TUEBL goes down sometimes.

When TUEBL goes down, it’s not because our librarians have gotten scared. It’s not because anyone’s behind bars. It’s not because ICE has closed our doors. It’s because sometimes tech things go wrong. That shit’s complicated, and sometimes it needs fixing.

So when a dreaded error page crops up, take a breath and relax! Wait a bit, check back soon, and be happy that someone, somewhere is working hard to get our library’s doors open again. Keep a stockpile of books ready for emergencies. And as always, you can check in with TUEBL on Twitter or Facebook for the most updated information.

Keep reading!

Posted by & filed under Pirates & Politics. no comments yet :(

“The Court held that sharing, or allowing others to share files of this kind on the Internet, even copyright-protected material and for profit-making purposes, was covered by the right to ‘receive and impart information’ under Article 10 (freedom of expression)…”

This week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recognized something that Pirates, lawyers, artists, and netizens have been fighting to have recognized for a long time: sharing the things we love online is a part of our natural right to freedom of expression. This argument is often laughed at as a grasping-at-straws rationale for “illegal” activities. We who have tried to explain over and over and over that the human right to share culture and art and information must go before the copyright monopoly are laughed at.

This week, the European Court of Human Rights has finally admitted that file-sharing has everything to do with freedom of expression. 

It’s a gargantuan step forward – the first time, as far as I am aware, that a legal body of this calibre has validated this argument in a copyright case. We should be celebrating! Finally, finally after years of waiting in Sweden, the Pirate Bay founders who fought to preserve our natural rights online have been validated in the European Court of Human Rights.

Oh, wait.

NOPE.

“However, the Court considered that the domestic courts had rightly balanced the competing interests at stake – i.e. the right of the applicants to receive and impart information and the necessity to protect copyright…”

Balance in this context means that the copyright holders come out ahead every single time. $6.5 million dollars ahead, to be exact. In other words, after recognizing that freedom of expression is infringed by copyright holders’ pursuit of control over cultural material, the ECHR agrees with the Swedish courts that copyright supersedes individuals’ right to expression and communication.

This is crushing.

In the Swedish courts, and many others around the world where copyright battles are being fought, these rights as they apply to file-sharing are not recognized.  Had the ECHR followed suit and brushed aside these arguments, those of us fighting would have just kept plodding along. But what does one do when the highest court on the continent says Yes you have rights, but No, we will not protect them?

Not that we won’t keep plodding along.

I refuse to take this as a setback. It is progress. Without even a recognition of rights, the fight for them was always going to be stunted. This decision at least leaves open the door for highlighting freedom expression in copyright battles all over the world. So we will plod on, remembering that the Pirate Bay verdict is not a verdict against a couple of founders in Europe – it is a verdict against all of us. The Pirate Bay, after all, isn’t filled by its founders but by us, the users. The culture, the art, the information, the human expressions filling its pages are not theirs, they’re ours. We must continue the fight, because we’re fighting for ourselves, for our rights.

But the battle is dark.

And the news gets worse.

“…the Court finds that the interference was “necessary in a democratic society.””

Yes. Exactly.

After recognizing our freedom of expression, then maintaining unambiguously that our freedoms are subordinate to copyright, the Court of Human Rights concludes, in so many words, that the copyright monopoly’s interference in human rights is “necessary.”

While the acknowledgement of freedom of expression left the door open, this seemingly slams it. It says Yes, Copyright supersedes individual rights and No, not just in this case, not just sometimes, but always. So long as we live in a democratic society, copyright goes above our freedoms. By invoking the necessary for democracy argument, the Court slams the door on any further discussion. It sets a precedent. It says, not only did they subvert freedom of expression, but they had to do so. We live in a democratic society, after all, and there is no other choice.

And I don’t know the way around this.

But I know that we will find one, because they are wrong. If this is the way democracy must hold copyright – as supreme over even our most fundamental freedoms – then it is time to show the Court what democracy can be. It is time for the  internet – the greatest equalizer, the greatest tool for democracy ever created – to redouble its efforts. It’s time for us to speak louder, share farther, and take heart: this may be the end of the road for TiAMO and Brokep, but it’s only the beginning for the next wave of creators, entrepreneurs, innovators, and activists.

This is our democracy. We’ll make it what we want it to be.

Posted by & filed under Pirates & Politics. 6 comments

Living in the (nominally, relatively) free world,  I normally take for granted that my words alone won’t subject me to legal action. Yes, harassment, threats, or slander have consequences. But as an American, I sleep comfortably believing that I’m within my First Amendement rights to speak my mind. I can even stand in front of the White House or Capitol Hill and freely speak against the most powerful people in this country because here, dissent alone is not a crime.

Oh, me and my stupid first world assumptions!

You mean this guy isn't just a lone fascist loonie? Fuck.

You mean this guy isn’t just a lone fascist loonie? Fuck.

Last year, when someone in a publishing forum suggested that the FBI and Interpol should chase down bloggers supporting (but not having any connection to) TUEBL, I laughed about it. Literally. I laughed the fuck out loud. I mean, BLOGGERS? Really? I’m writing my opinion on a fucking website. Why don’t they just call Interpol to come by the cafe where I talk about politics and arrest everyone there too. Interpol! The FBI? Yeah, I lol’d at that. Fuck me, right?

It was a ridiculous suggestion. That merely talking about an issue should could get you hunted down was laughable.

But silly me! I was laughing from my first-world democracy standpoint. Apparently we aren’t in a first world democracy anymore – or at least some people think we aren’t. Apparently, snitching on people for talking about something is actually a thingA copyright thing. Oh, and it’s not just for talking about something. It’s for reading about something too.

So…… yeah, if you’re reading this and you don’t want to risk the thoughtpolice getting wind of your activities, you’d better close this window right now. Because it’s happening:

In what is becoming one of the strangest, most unbelievable and over-broad farces in the history of United States copyright trolling, the ante has just been upped yet again. In a direct attack on the troll defense blogs FightCopyrightTrolls and DieTrollDie, Prenda Law has just ordered WordPress to hand over all IP addresses of users who accessed either site in the last two years. Just to be clear, that’s everyone’s details.

Copyright Trolls Order WordPress To Hand Over Critics IP Addresses

Andy @torrentfreak

That’s right, you don’t even have to write something to get in trouble for it. You just have to stumble across it and drop your IP address a the door (by the way, you really shouldn’t be doing that……) And this week, two bloggers and their readers have found that out. Yeah, that’s right, the professional Copyright Trolls at Prenda Law have attempted to hunt down not only the writers of opinions they don’t like, but the readers of those opinions as well.

In order to understand the full force of these events, you need to understand this: FightCopyrightTrolls and DieTrollDie are news blogs. They share news stories, commentary, and resources on copyright abuses. They aren’t pirate sites. They aren’t violating copyright. They are just talking.  And people are reading. And apparently, that’s a problem now.

That’s not ok.

Attacking bloggers – like attacking any dissident – is an assault on anyone’s freedom to express, hold, and communicate ideas. And attacking readers is an assault on anyone’s right to stay informed and form their own opinions.

It’s also downright stupid.

Prenda Law’s assumption is, You read an anti-copyright blog, therefore you ARE anti-copyright! This is moronic beyond belief. It assumes that people only ever read things they support and never, ever, ever explore new ideas, which is, quite frankly, total bullshit. As a copyright opponent, I read copyright supporters’ stuff all the time. Blogs. Forums. Articles. I read it all. And I assume that the people that think I’m pond scum and argue vitriolically against me are reading my arguments as well. You can’t derive intention from what someone reads online, and chasing down people for reading or sharing opinions and information won’t get anyone anywhere useful.

And yet, we have this.

Dissent is not a crime. No one should be silence.! Let’s hope these bloggers agree and don’t  let the trolls scare them into silence!

Posted by & filed under Reading and Reviewing. 3 comments

On February 8th, the four-years-in-the-works documentary on The Pirate Bay was released. TPB AFK is a critical work. More than just a fun story of a popular website, it is a powerful narrative central to the struggles of this – of my – generation. After closely following the story IRL for years and waiting anxiously for the film’s completion, my reaction to the final product is… confused. And strong.
Therefore, late though it is, I share my thoughts on this narrative. So, without further ado after a fortnight of rumination and delay, here are my thoughts.


TPB AFK

I remind myself that movies are different from reality.

This movie, in particular, is very different from the reality, at least according to one of its stars. Brokep, aka Peter Sunde, reviewing the film before its release, reveals that the experience the film shows is a far cry from his own experience as one of the film’s subjects. He expresses confused disappointment that the story – the story that followed four years of his life, four years of his story – painted a picture so different from his own experience: 

“I feel that either Simon [the filmmaker] doesn’t know me, or his art goes before portraying me in a way that I recognize.”

My storyteller heart cringes at that criticism.

I don’t make documentaries and I don’t write biographies. But, like anyone who has ever made anything creative, I derive inspiration from reality. Even when a story is packaged in fiction, the impetus to tell, to share something true and recognizable, is powerful. I cannot help the feeling that failing that goal is failing the story. This criticism – you don’t know me – from the very subject of the story himself is like a knife to the storyteller, and I cringe in sympathy.

As a fan, I can’t take that accusation much better.

Reading this before the movie even came out, I felt preemptive disappointment. As a fan, I saw this criticism from the movie’s own subject as a serious blow. That the story of such a widely admired figure could fall so far short of the expectations and reality of the figure himself, could only mean the film had well and truly failed.

But now, I’m glad it’s different.TPB AFK to show reality.

TPB AFK is a dark movie. The deep, thrumming soundtrack and shadowy shots set a stage worthy of a tragedy or murder mystery.  But the real darkness is not in the window dressing. Its in the content. Circus music couldn’t make this a happy movie.

In one scene, Brokep sits at home receiving the first verdict – the verdict that condemned them all to one year in prison and some ridiculous fuckload of fines.

“This is so insane… This must be a joke…”

He can’t even believe it, and he stares at the computer in disbelief. But it’s not a joke. It’s twenty-first century justice.

Roger WallisIn another scene, Professor Roger Wallis from Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology, whose academic history, status, and credentials are easily available to any kindergartener who can use google, is attacked on the stand – cross examined about his hiring at the institute and interrogated over his job – as he tries valiantly to direct attention to the research itself.

Like the verdict is a warning to young people like Brokep who want to create things on the internet as a challenge to the dominant media, the trial is a grim warning to academics who want to use research to challenge the status quo.

Yeah, it’s dark.

But TPB AFK is inspirational, too, in the way that dark stories often are. The threat looms heavy against our three real-life protagonists, and all the while they persist, sticking to their guns no matter what. Watching three young men fighting prison, bankruptcy, economic exile is not fun times. But seing the grace and courage with which they handle their troubles speaks volumes about their convictions. It sends a clear and optimistic message to the entire generation resisting the same massive foes: You can do it. You can fight. Don’t give up.  

And the darkness is exactly what drives home the specks of bright hope – hope that this fight is worth it.

And it’s not just their fight.

This is why Simon’s story, I think, diverges from the personal story that Brokep and his friends would recognize – and this is why it should diverge frrom theirs. The Pirate Bay case is not just about the freedom of a few people. It’s not just Brokep’s, TiAMO’s, and Anakata’s story – and that’s why it’s not the perfect show of their experience.

As the Pirate Bay itself has always been about the users, the Pirate Bay case is about the freedom for us – the users of communications and of media, whether from TPB or elsewhere on the digital seas – to communicate without fear. And while TPB AFK highlights the pain and stress and personal hardships of those that directly fight the battle, it bears grim news for us all. The TPB case heralds dark things for the world. It’s a global case that brings to light international threats, severe judicial oversight, and a massively powerful, dangerously antiquated industry that has asserted itself over twenty-first century communications. The dire implications of this case are for all of us.

No, the story is not just the story of three people.

The TPB case is a symbol of what the piracy battle would – and at this point, already has – become: an all out assaut on the spaces of communication. As of 2013, the Pirate Bay is blocked in places like China, the UK, Finland, and the Netherlands, setting a dangerous precedent for any other site that dares provide free exchange of material. This case does not just affect a few people in Sweden. It affects the bookworm who can’t get the books that are censored in their own country, or the movie buff who can’t afford the monstrously expensive DVD’s in their country, or the kid who can’t explore the music they want to  because they don’t access to anything beyond the bland pop played on the radio. It affects the grandmothers who will be wrongfully accused of copyright infringement, or the nine-year old girls who will have their laptops stolen, or the entrepreneurs whose innovations will be chilled because they are too afraid to create something that isn’t allowed. It affects the sites that will never be started, and the books that will never be shared, and the artists whose work will never reach their fans.

But there is hope.

The pirate movement’s idea to fight for free file sharing just isn’t accepted anymore. It was just a little fad.

This stupidly hilarious quote comes from a scene with Monique Wasted, the lawyer for the entertainment companies. I laughed out loud at this part. This, more than any other moment in the film, gave me hope.

This is the moment exposing the massive, fundamental weakness of a goliath opponent. It’s a weakness, a horrid depth of ignorance that makes the old power players ultimately defeatable. It is a belief that is patently false, and one which fails at the very first rule of battle: Know your enemy! I cannot imagine how little one must know of this “enemy” to believe that free sharing – the very foundation of the internet – is only a passing fad. So it is a hopeful thing to hear. As long as we are seen as some kids with a fad and as long as the industry and courts and lawyers are so distracted from reality, then we, the innovators,the  creators, the fans, and this entire new generation can build up our new world right under their noses.

Still, though there was hope in the darkness of TPB AFK, I was sad watching it.

I don’t want to live in a world where people that create things are hunted down. But this is that world, and people have always been hunted down for what they create – whether that be critical essays, heretical art, scientific theory, or other strange new innovations. Politics, religion, nationalism – all the things that powerful people value were used to hunt others down for their work. Now, it’s ownership. You can’t have that story, that song, that information! they say. You don’t own that! You don’t have the right to it.

You don’t have the right.

A world where stories and songs and information and innovations are not free to move is not a good world. A world where rights are used to deny people access to such  fundamental cultural elements, like music or stories, is not a good world.

Yeah, it’s looking dark.

And this is where I look back to the people’s story. When the global implications are too much, the tenuous future too cloudy, the long-term struggles too scary, I can look to the personal stories – individual, identifiable stories of those people who have been at the heart of this storm all along.

And maybe, it isn’t that bad.

At least that’s what Brokep tells us. His experience was boring, he says – at least, of the trial. His reality was more lighthearted. Not dark. His story was fun. Not tragic.And I hope he’s right. And when the film ends, I feel just a bit – just the tiniest bit – happy (sorry Brokep!) to hear that he is disappointed in this story.

There’s just this feeling I have sometimes, that my friend Simon has a view of me and my friends that doesn’t fit reality. Is it art or did he misunderstand me? I want my friends to know who I am.

While sad for him to not have the story he wanted, it gives me hope. Hope that maybe, just maybe, things aren’t so dark as they look. And again, I remind myself Simon Klose isn’t the only one telling this story, that the story of the filmmaker was just that:  his story. And Brokep has his own. And TiAMO. And Anakata.

So then, what is the truth?

Whose is the true story? If not just Simon’s or Brokep’s or TiAMO’s or Anakata’s. Whose?

Maybe it’s all of ours.