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: Will Work for Copyrights: The Cultural Policy of Anti-piracy Campaigns - Kelly Gates (Social Semiotics - Volume 16, Issue 1) -
"Following but inverting Rosemary Coombe's (1998) cultural approach to the study of intellectual property, this essay examines not the culture of law but the laws of culture, not the way that the law works to shape culture but the way that cultural policies outside the formal doctrine of law work to shape the conduct of citizens. Specifically, I examine the cultural policy of copyright protection by considering two overlapping forms of “cultural labor” invoked in the MPAA and BSA anti-piracy campaigns. First, both the MPAA and BSA make labor-related appeals as part of their strategies to combat film and software piracy. The MPAA rather disingenuously encourages moviegoers to empathize with the “ordinary working people” involved in film and television production whose livelihoods are threatened, as the MPAA's argument goes, by film and television piracy. For its part, the BSA makes a cynical attempt to capitalize on disenfranchised workers’ desire for revenge against their employers by asking these workers to report companies that use unlicensed software. These seemingly different strategies have at least one fundamental similarity: both exploit the economic insecurity of workers to make their anti-piracy appeals. In addition, both of these strategies are presented as empowering to workers: the MPAA gives screen workers visibility where they are typically invisible, and the BSA fulfills disgruntled workers’ revenge fantasies. In fact, these so-called worker-friendly anti-piracy strategies serve to further disempower workers by individualizing them and severely limiting the way in which the threat to their economic security is constructed and addressed." -
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