Piracy rampant and blatant in Romania – cheers, Bill!

February 6, 2007

From this EnGadget article…

Romanian president Traian Basescu has a bigger reason than most to owe the Microsoft founder a debt of gratitude: he claims that rampant software piracy in the Eastern European nation was the single biggest factor in developing a healthy IT industry. Yes, believe it or not, a head-of-state actually stood up in public – at a press conference to celebrate the launch of a Microsoft global technical center – and told Gates face-to-face how illegal copies of Windows “helped the young generation discover computers…set off the development of the IT industry…[and] helped Romanians improve their creative capacity…” Indeed, nearly 70% of all software used in Romania today is pirated, according to some experts (pirates even peddle their wares to legitimate businesses, reportedly), despite the anti-piracy legislation passed some ten years ago. Amusingly, Basescu justified his countrymen’s ridiculous levels of IP theft by claiming that “it was an investment in Romania’s friendship with Microsoft and Bill Gates.”

What a wally. Nevertheless, it’s a clear- if far from shining – example of how sharing things is great for growth. Just maybe not the growth of Microsoft. I wonder what the future president of Freenation might say if he ever gets to meet Gates…


The ever-present ‘first post’ problem.

February 3, 2007

Pirate Village

I think a good starting point for this blog would be a brief description of my work so far in this architecture degree I’m working on. Last year my studio was given the job of turning an old Cold War airfield (an aerial photo of which can be found here) into a new village. Of course, many arguments were made and a good deal of debate was given over to what constituted a ‘village’ in this day and age, but I’ll leave that for somewhere else. Certainly we all had to come up with solid justification of how and why our proposals might work, and I figured thusly:

If, said I, a village is primarily defined by a close sense of community, then the question really becomes one of how you develop that sense amongst a small group of people. I suggested that what was really required was a common activity for people to engage in – anyone who has been on a summer camp can confirm that bonds are quickly made when clustered together in similar tasks. Seeing as you can’t force people to have the same jobs as eachother, I surmised that an incentive was required, and being interested as I am in copyright debates over intellectual property, I chose to suggest a village development zone which would despense with intellectual property law completely. A small-scale experiment of little interest to many potential villagers, of course, but some people would flock to it. DJs, collage artists, hackers, educators, and of course many a free-loader. But remember: studies have shown that the biggest illegal downloaders of copyrighted works are also the biggest spenders – these people are highly active.

So, similar interests and shared creative activity would bolster a collective spirit and sense of belonging, and from that a new village identity would be formed. How the project was to be approached architecturally can be saved for some later posts, but this social engineering trick had me very interested – could such a project actually exist?

…And blow me down if this week, the very same week I decide to start my blog, an organisation didn’t turn up whose goals are an almost perfect replica of my project. Not a village this time, though: a nation. The FreeNation Foundation has set much of the blogosphere a-yabbering this week with the announcement of its existence, and I’ve been only too happy to jump in and get involved. It’s stated goals are “To establish an ecologically sustainable society that provides the freedom to advance humanity through science, reason and cooperation”, but it originally got in motion with the Pirate Bay‘s indication of interest in acquiring the tiny nation of Sealand as a new country from which to practice it’s swarthy ways. Yaharr! The piratical heritage of the project is clear, and I could help but wade into the forums and point people towards my project, some images of which you can see above, and many more of which you can find by looking at the DS2 tag (Design Studio 2 – the name of the unit last year) on my photostream.

Obviously since doing that project I’m now looking at cross-overs between digital and physical cultures in more general terms, but that’s largely because of the nature of the suburbs I’m studying this year. They’re a good deal more vague, and a good deal more challenging to address, too. Here’s hoping we can find something in the sprawl!