“The Pirate’s Dilemma” by Matt Mason

One of the subjects for an upcoming blog post (when I can take the time to get it written) is piracy, with a focus on the one related to software and intellectual property in general. To help with the preparation of it, I’ve been documenting myself on the subject, and part of this research, I got myself a copy of “The Pirate’s Dilemma” book by Matt Mason, subtitled “how youth culture is reinventing capitalism”.

While this book does not cover specifically software piracy, it contains a lot of insightful information about the challenges traditional companies face and how they should embrace piracy vs. fighting it, including great insights in different ways of thinking.

The books description on amazon.com states following:

Music journalist Mason, a former pirate radio and club DJ in London, explores how open source culture is changing the distribution and control of information and harnessing the old system of punk capitalism to new market conditions governing society. According to Mason, this movement’s creators operate according to piratical tactics and are changing the very nature of our economy. He charts the rise of the ideas and social experiments behind these latter-day pirates, citing the work of academics, historians and innovators across a multitude of fields. He also explores contributions by visionaries like Andy Warhol, 50 Cent and Dr. Yuref Hamied, who was called a pirate and a thief after producing anti-HIV drugs for Third World countries that cost as little as $1 a day to produce. Pirates, Mason states, sail uncharted waters where traditional rules don’t apply. As a result, they offer great ways to service the public’s best interests. According to Mason, how people, corporations and governments react to these changes is one of the most important economic and cultural questions of the 21st century. Well-written, entertaining and highly original, Mason offers a fascinating view of the revolutionary forces shaping the world as we know it. (Jan. 08) – Copyright  Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Overall, this is a very interesting book to read and brings many new points of views and perspectives to the problem. The biggest (obvious) conclusion is that fight might not the best answer when it comes to piracy, much more embrace, which makes sense for the examples in the book. But at the same time, Matt Mason clearly gives examples where taking legal actions make sense.

Looking at the table of content, this book covers many different subjects, from pharmaceuticals to music, and from radio stations to tags and graffitis. Yes, many of these areas have re-shaped how we do and understand things, and many of them are about to. The example of the 3D printers is certainly an excellent one and will have huge implications in the future. And showing how industries have grown from underground activities was very interesting (think about music trends such as disco or the hip-hop). The part I was missing most was related to a look at the current IP laws in major countries and thoughts on how this could be updated / reformed. And if you don’t have time to read the full book, focus on the last chapter (outro titled “The Pirate’s Dilemma: Changng the Game Theory”) next time you are in a library or a book store.

If you want more information on the subject, I can only recommend the related blog: thepiratesdilemma.com