file sharing in Adema 2009


Adema
Scanners, collectors and aggregators. On the underground movement of (pirated) theory text sharing
2009


# Scanners, collectors and aggregators. On the ‘underground movement’ of
(pirated) theory text sharing

_“But as I say, let’s play a game of science fiction and imagine for a moment:
what would it be like if it were possible to have an academic equivalent to
the peer-to-peer file sharing practices associated with Napster, eMule, and
BitTorrent, something dealing with written texts rather than music? What would
the consequences be for the way in which scholarly research is conceived,
communicated, acquired, exchanged, practiced, and understood?”_

Gary Hall – [Digitize this
book!](http://www.upress.umn.edu/Books/H/hall_digitize.html) (2008)

![ubuweb](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/ubuweb.jpg?w=547)Ubu
web was founded in 1996 by poet [Kenneth
Goldsmith](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Goldsmith "Kenneth Goldsmith")
and has developed from ‘a repository for visual, concrete and (later) sound
poetry, to a site that ‘embraced all forms of the avant-garde and beyond. Its
parameters continue to expand in all directions.’ As
[Wikipedia](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UbuWeb) states, Ubu is non-commercial
and operates on a gift economy. All the same - by forming an amazing resource
and repository for the avant-garde movement, and by offering and hosting these
works on its platform, Ubu is violating copyright laws. As they state however:
‘ _should something return to print, we will remove it from our site
immediately. Also, should an artist find their material posted on UbuWeb
without permission and wants it removed, please let us know. However, most of
the time, we find artists are thrilled to find their work cared for and
displayed in a sympathetic context. As always, we welcome more work from
existing artists on site_.’

Where in the more affluent and popular media realms of block buster movies and
pop music the [Piratebay](http://thepiratebay.org/) and other download sites
(or p2p networks) like [Mininova](http://www.mininova.org/) are being sued and
charged with copyright infringement, the major powers to be seem to turn a
blind eye when it comes to Ubu and many other resource sites online that offer
digital versions of hard-to-get-by materials ranging from books to
documentaries.

This is and has not always been the case: in 2002 [Sebastian
Lütgert](http://www.wizards-of-
os.org/archiv/wos_3/sprecher/l_p/sebastian_luetgert.html) from Berlin/New York
was sued by the "Hamburger Stiftung zur Förderung von Wissenschaft und Kultur"
for putting online two downloadable texts from Theodor W. Adorno on his
website [textz.com](http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/artist/textz-
com/biography/), an underground archive for Literature. According to
[this](http://de.indymedia.org/2004/03/76975.shtml) Indymedia interview with
Lütgert, textz.com was referred to as ‘the Napster for books’ offering about
700 titles, focusing on, as Lütgert states _‘Theorie, Romane, Science-Fiction,
Situationisten, Kino, Franzosen, Douglas Adams, Kritische Theorie, Netzkritik
usw’._

The interview becomes even more interesting when Lütgert remarks that one can
still easily download both Adorno texts without much ado if one wants to. This
leads to the bigger question of the real reasons underlying the charge against
textz.com; why was textz.com sued? As Lütgert says in the interview: “ _Das
kann man sowieso_ [when referring to the still available Adorno texts] _._
_Aber es gibt schon lange einen klaren Unterschied zwischen offener
Verfügbarkeit und dem Untergrund. Man kann die freie Verbreitung von Inhalten
nicht unterbinden, aber man scheint verhindern zu wollen dass dies allzu offen
und selbstverständlich geschieht. Das ist es was sie stört.”
_

_![I don't have any
secrets](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/i-dont-have-any-
secrets.jpg?w=547)_

But how can something be truly underground in an online environment whilst
still trying to spread or disseminate texts as widely as possible? This seems
to be the paradox of many - not quite legal and/or copyright protected -
resource sharing and collecting communities and platforms nowadays. However,
multiple scenario’s are available to evade this dilemma: by being frankly open
about the ‘status’ of the content on offer, as Ubu does, or by using little
‘tricks’ like an easy website registration, classifying oneself as a reading
group, or by relieving oneself from responsibility by stating that one is only
aggregating sources from elsewhere (linking) and not hosting the content on
its own website or blog. One can also state the offered texts or multimedia
files form a special issue or collection of resources, emphasizing their
educational and not-for-profit value.

Most of the ‘underground’ text and content sharing communities seem to follow
the concept of (the inevitability of) ‘[information wants to be
free](https://openreflections.wordpress.com/tag/information-wants-to-be-
free/)’, especially on the Internet. As Lütgert States: “ _Und vor allem sind
die über Walter Benjamin nicht im Bilde, der das gleiche Problem der
Reproduzierbarkeit von Werken aller Art schon zu Beginn des letzten
Jahrhunderts vor sich hatte und erkannt hat: die Massen haben das Recht, sich
das alles wieder anzueignen. Sie haben das Recht zu kopieren, und das Recht,
kopiert zu werden. Jedenfalls ist das eine ganz schön ungemütliche Situation,
dass dessen Nachlass jetzt von solch einem Bürokraten verwaltet wird._ _A:
Glaubst Du es ist überhaupt legitim intellektuellen Inhalt zu "besitzen"? Oder
__Eigentümer davon zu sein?_ _S: Es ist *unmöglich*. "Geistiges" Irgendwas
verbreitet sich immer weiter. Reemtsmas Vorfahren wären nie von den Bäumen
runtergekommen oder aus dem Morast rausgekrochen, wenn sich "geistiges"
Irgendwas nicht verbreitet hätte.”_

![646px-
Book_scanner_svg.jpg](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09
/646px-book_scanner_svg-jpg1.png?w=547)

What seems to be increasingly obvious, as the interview also states, is that
one can find virtually all Ebooks and texts one needs via p2p networks and
other file sharing community’s (the true
[Darknet](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darknet_\(file_sharing\)) in a way) –
more and more people are offering (and asking for!) selections of texts and
books (including the ones by Adorno) on openly available websites and blogs,
or they are scanning them and offering them for (educational) use on their
domains. Although the Internet is mostly known for the pirating and
dissemination of pirated movies and music, copyright protected textual content
has (of course) always been spread too. But with the rise of ‘born digital’
text content, and with the help of massive digitization efforts like Google
Books (and accompanying Google Books [download
tools](http://www.codeplex.com/GoogleBookDownloader)) accompanied by the
appearance of better (and cheaper) scanning equipment, the movement of
‘openly’ spreading (pirated) texts (whether or not focusing on education and
‘fair use’) seems to be growing fast.

The direct harm (to both the producers and their publishers) of the free
online availability of (in copyright) texts is also maybe less clear than for
instance with music and films. Many feel texts and books will still be
preferred to be read in print, making the online and free availability of text
nothing more than a marketing tool for the sales of the printed version. Once
discovered, those truly interested will find and buy the print book. Also more
than with music and film, it is felt essential to share information, as a
cultural good and right, to prevent censorship and to improve society.

![Piracy by Mikel Casal](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09
/piracy-by-mikel-casal.jpg?w=432&h=312)

This is one of the reasons the [Open
Access](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_access_\(publishing\)) movement for
scientific research has been initiated. But where the amount of people and
institutions supportive of this movement is gradually growing (especially
where it concerns articles and journals in the Sciences), the spread
concerning Open Access (or even digital availability) of monographs in the
Humanities and Social Sciences (of which the majority of the resources on
offer in the underground text sharing communities consists) has only just
started.

This has lead to a situation in which some have decided that change is not
coming fast enough. Instead of waiting for this utopian Open Access future to
come gradually about, they are actively spreading, copying, scanning and
pirating scholarly texts/monographs online. Although many times accompanied by
lengthy disclaimers about why they are violating copyright (to make the
content more widely accessible for one), many state they will take down the
content if asked. Following the
[copyleft](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyleft) movement, what has in a way
thus arisen is a more ‘progressive’ or radical branch of the Open Access
movement. The people who spread these texts deem it inevitable they will be
online eventually, they are just speeding up the process. As Lütgert states: ‘
_The desire of an increasingly larger section of the population to 100-percent
of information is irreversible. The only way there can be slowed down in the
worst case, but not be stopped._

![scribd-logo](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/scribd-
logo.jpg?w=547)

Still we have not yet answered the question of why publishers (and their
pirated authors) are not more upset about these kinds of websites and
platforms. It is not a simple question of them not being aware that these kind
of textual disseminations are occurring. As mentioned before, the harm to
producers (scholars) and their publishers (in Humanities and Social Sciences
mainly Not-For-Profit University Presses) is less clear. First of all, their
main customers are libraries (compare this to the software business model:
free for the consumer, companies pay), who are still buying the legal content
and mostly follow the policy of buying either print or both print and ebook,
so there are no lost sales there for the publishers. Next to that it is not
certain that the piracy is harming sales. Unlike in literary publishing, the
authors (academics) are already paid and do not loose money (very little maybe
in royalties) from the online availability. Perhaps some publishers also see
the Open Access movement as something inevitably growing and they thus don’t
see the urge to step up or organize a collaborative effort against scholarly
text piracy (where most of the presses also lack the scale to initiate this).
Whereas there has been some more upsurge and worries about _[textbook
piracy](http://bookseller-association.blogspot.com/2008/07/textbook-
piracy.html)_ (since this is of course the area where individual consumers –
students – do directly buy the material) and websites like
[Scribd](http://www.scribd.com/), this mostly has to do with the fact that
these kind of platforms also host non-scholarly content and actively promote
the uploading of texts (where many of the text ‘sharing’ platforms merely
offer downloading facilities). In the case of Scribd the size of the platform
(or the amount of content available on the platform) also has caused concerns
and much [media coverage](http://labnol.blogspot.com/2007/04/scribd-youtube-
for-pirated-ebooks-but.html).

All of this gives a lot of potential power to text sharing communities, and I
guess they know this. Only authors might be directly upset (especially famous
ones gathering a lot of royalties on their work) or in the case of Lütgert,
their beneficiaries, who still do see a lot of money coming directly from
individual customers.

Still, it is not only the lack of fear of possible retaliations that is
feeding the upsurge of text sharing communities. There is a strong ideological
commitment to the inherent good of these developments, and a moral and
political strive towards institutional and societal change when it comes to
knowledge production and dissemination.

![Information Libre](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09
/information-libre.jpg?w=547)As Adrian Johns states in his
[article](http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/345/348)
_Piracy as a business force_ , ‘today’s pirate philosophy is a moral
philosophy through and through’. As Jonas Andersson
[states](http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/346/359), the
idea of piracy has mostly lost its negative connotations in these communities
and is seen as a positive development, where these movements ‘have begun to
appear less as a reactive force (i.e. ‘breaking the rules’) and more as a
proactive one (‘setting the rules’). Rather than complain about the
conservatism of established forms of distribution they simply create new,
alternative ones.’ Although Andersson states this kind of activism is mostly
_occasional_ , it can be seen expressed clearly in the texts accompanying the
text sharing sites and blogs. However, copyright is perhaps so much _an issue_
on most of these sites (where it is on some of them), as it is something that
seems to be simply ignored for the larger good of aggregating and sharing
resources on the web. As is stated clearly for instance in an
[interview](http://blog.sfmoma.org/2009/08/four-dialogues-2-on-aaaarg/) with
Sean Dockray, who maintains AAAARG:

_" The project wasn’t about criticizing institutions, copyright, authority,
and so on. It was simply about sharing knowledge. This wasn’t as general as it
sounds; I mean literally the sharing of knowledge between various individuals
and groups that I was in correspondence with at the time but who weren’t
necessarily in correspondence with each other."_

Back to Lütgert. The files from textz.com have been saved and are still
[accessible](http://web.archive.org/web/20031208043421/textz.gnutenberg.net/index.php3?enhanced_version=http://textz.com/index.php3)
via [The Internet Archive Wayback
Machine](http://web.archive.org/collections/web.html). In the case of
textz.com, these files contain ’typed out text’, so no scanned contents or
PDF’s. Textz.com (or better said its shadow or mirror) offers an amazing
collection of texts, including artists statements/manifestos and screenplays
from for instance David Lynch.

The text sharing community has evolved and now knows many players. Two other
large members in this kind of ‘pirate theory base network’ (although – and I
have to make that clear! – they offer many (and even mostly) legal and out of
copyright texts), still active today, are
[Monoskop/Burundi](http://burundi.sk/monoskop/log/) and
[AAAARG.ORG](http://a.aaaarg.org/). These kinds of platforms all seem to
disseminate (often even on a titular level) similar content, focusing mostly
on Continental Philosophy and Critical Theory, Cultural Studies and Literary
Theory, The Frankfurter Schule, Sociology/Social Theory, Psychology,
Anthropology and Ethnography, Media Art and Studies, Music Theory, and
critical and avant-garde writers like Kafka, Beckett, Burroughs, Joyce,
Baudrillard, etc.etc.

[Monoskop](http://www.burundi.sk/monoskop/index.php/Main_Page) is, as they
state, a collaborative wiki research on the social history of media art or a
‘living archive of writings on art, culture and media technology’. At the
sitemap of their log, or under the categories section, you can browse their
resources on genre: book, journal, e-zine, report, pamphlet etc. As I found
[here](http://www.slovakia.culturalprofiles.net/?id=7958), Burundi originated
in 2003 as a (Slovakian) media lab working between the arts, science and
technologies, which spread out to a European city based cultural network; They
even functioned as a press, publishing the Anthology of New Media Literature
(in Slovak) in 2006, and they hosted media events and curated festivals. It
dissolved in June 2005 although the
[Monoskop](http://www.slovakia.culturalprofiles.net/?id=7964) research wiki on
media art, has continued to run since the dissolving of Burundi.

![AAAARG](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/aaaarg.jpg?w=547)As
is stated on their website, AAAARG is a conversation platform, or
alternatively, a school, reading group or journal, maintained by Los Angeles
artist[ Sean Dockray](http://www.design.ucla.edu/people/faculty.php?ID=64
"Sean Dockray"). In the true spirit of Critical Theory, its aim is to ‘develop
critical discourse outside of an institutional framework’. Or even more
beautiful said, it operates in the spaces in between: ‘ _But rather than
thinking of it like a new building, imagine scaffolding that attaches onto
existing buildings and creates new architectures between them_.’ To be able to
access the texts and resources that are being ‘discussed’ at AAAARG, you need
to register, after which you will be able to browse the
[library](http://a.aaaarg.org/library). From this library, you can download
resources, but you can also upload content. You can subscribe to their
[feed](http://aaaarg.org/feed) (RSS/XML) and [like
Monoskop](http://twitter.com/monoskop), AAAARG.org also maintains a [Twitter
account](http://twitter.com/aaaarg) on which updates are posted. The most
interesting part though is the ‘extra’ functions the platform offers: after
you have made an account, you can make your own collections, aggregations or
issues out of the texts in the library or the texts you add. This offers an
alternative (thematically ordered) way into the texts archived on the site.
You also have the possibility to make comments or start a discussion on the
texts. See for instance their elaborate [discussion
lists](http://a.aaaarg.org/discussions). The AAAARG community thus serves both
as a sharing and feedback community and in this way operates in a true p2p
fashion, in a way like p2p seemed originally intended. The difference being
that AAAARG is not based on a distributed network of computers, but is based
on one platform, to which registered users are able to upload a file (which is
not the case on Monoskop for instance – only downloading here).

Via[
mercurunionhall](http://mercerunionhall.blogspot.com/2009/06/aaaargorg.html),
I found the image underneath which depicts AAAARG.ORG's article index
organized as a visual map, showing the connections between the different
texts. This map was created and posted by AAAARG user john, according to
mercurunionhall.

![Connections-v1 by
John](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/connections-v1-by-
john.jpg?w=547)

Where AAAArg.org focuses again on the text itself - typed out versions of
books - Monoskop works with more modern versions of textual distribution:
scanned versions or full ebooks/pdf’s with all the possibilities they offer,
taking a lot of content from Google books or (Open Access) publishers’
websites. Monoskop also links back to the publishers’ websites or Google
Books, for information about the books or texts (which again proves that the
publishers should know about their activities). To download the text however,
Monoskop links to [Sharebee](http://www.sharebee.com/), keeping the actual
text and the real downloading activity away from its platform.

Another part of the text sharing content consists of platforms offering
documentaries and lectures (so multi-media content) online. One example of the
last is the [Discourse Notebook Archive](http://www.discoursenotebook.com/),
which describes itself as an effort which has as its main goal ‘to make
available lectures in contemporary continental philosophy’ and is maintained
by Todd Kesselman, a PhD Student at The New School for Social Research. Here
you can find lectures from Badiou, Kristeva and Zizek (both audio and video)
and lectures aggregated from the European Graduate School. Kesselman also
links to resources on the web dealing with contemporary continental
philosophy.

![Eule - Society of
Control](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/eule-society-of-
control.gif?w=547)Society of Control is a website maintained by [Stephan
Dillemuth](http://www.kopenhagen.dk/fileadmin/oldsite/interviews/solmennesker.htm),
an artist living and working in Munich, Germany, offering amongst others an
overview of his work and scientific research. According to
[this](http://www2.khib.no/~hovedfag/akademiet_05/tekster/interview.html)
interview conducted by Kristian Ø Dahl and Marit Flåtter his work is a
response to the increased influence of the neo-liberal world order on
education, creating a culture industry that is more than often driven by
commercial interests. He asks the question ‘How can dissidence grow in the
blind spots of the ‘society of control’ and articulate itself?’ His website,
the [Society of Control](http://www.societyofcontrol.com/disclaimer1.htm) is,
as he states, ‘an independent organization whose profits are entirely devoted
to research into truth and meaning.’

Society of Control has a [library
section](http://www.societyofcontrol.com/library/) which contains works from
some of the biggest thinkers of the twentieth century: Baudrillard, Adorno,
Debord, Bourdieu, Deleuze, Habermas, Sloterdijk und so weiter, and so much
more, a lot in German, and all ‘typed out’ texts. The library section offers a
direct search function, a category function and a a-z browse function.
Dillemuth states that he offers this material under fair use, focusing on not
for profit, freedom of information and the maintenance of freedom of speech
and information and making information accessible to all:

_“The Societyofcontrol website site contains information gathered from many
different sources. We see the internet as public domain necessary for the free
flow and exchange of information. However, some of these materials contained
in this site maybe claimed to be copyrighted by various unknown persons. They
will be removed at the copyright holder 's request within a reasonable period
of time upon receipt of such a request at the email address below. It is not
the intent of the Societyofcontrol to have violated or infringed upon any
copyrights.”_

![Vilem Flusser, Andreas Strohl, Erik Eisel Writings
\(2002\)](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/vilem-flusser-
andreas-strohl-erik-eisel-writings-2002.jpg?w=547)Important in this respect is
that he put the responsibility of reading/using/downloading the texts on his
site with the viewers, and not with himself: _“Anyone reading or looking at
copyright material from this site does so at his/her own peril, we disclaim
any participation or liability in such actions.”_

Fark Yaraları = [Scars of Différance](http://farkyaralari.blogspot.com/) and
[Multitude of blogs](http://multitudeofblogs.blogspot.com/) are maintained by
the same author, Renc-u-ana, a philosophy and sociology student from Istanbul.
The first is his personal blog (with also many links to downloadable texts),
focusing on ‘creating an e-library for a Heideggerian philosophy and
Bourdieuan sociology’ on which he writes ‘market-created inequalities must be
overthrown in order to close knowledge gap.’ The second site has a clear
aggregating function with the aim ‘to give united feedback for e-book
publishing sites so that tracing and finding may become easier.’ And a call
for similar blogs or websites offering free ebook content. The blog is
accompanied by a nice picture of a woman warning to keep quiet, very
paradoxically appropriate to the context. Here again, a statement from the
host on possible copyright infringement _: ‘None of the PDFs are my own
productions. I 've collected them from web (e-mule, avax, libreremo, socialist
bros, cross-x, gigapedia..) What I did was thematizing._’ The same goes for
[pdflibrary](http://pdflibrary.wordpress.com/) (which seems to be from the
same author), offering texts from Derrida, Benjamin, Deleuze and the likes:
_‘_ _None of the PDFs you find here are productions of this blog. They are
collected from different places in the web (e-mule, avax, libreremo, all
socialist bros, cross-x, …). The only work done here is thematizing and
tagging.’_

[![GRUP_Z~1](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/grup_z11.jpg?w=547)](http://multitudeofblogs.blogspot.com/)Our
student from Istanbul lists many text sharing sites on Multitude of blogs,
including [Inishark](http://danetch.blogspot.com/) (amongst others Badiou,
Zizek and Derrida), [Revelation](http://revelation-online.blogspot.com/2009/02
/keeping-ten-commandments.html) (a lot of history and bible study), [Museum of
accidents](http://museumofaccidents.blogspot.com/) (many resources relating to
again, critical theory, political theory and continental philhosophy) and
[Makeworlds](http://makeworlds.net/) (initiated from the [make world
festival](http://www.makeworlds.org/1/index.html) 2001).
[Mariborchan](http://mariborchan.wordpress.com/) is mainly a Zizek resource
site (also Badiou and Lacan) and offers next to ebooks also video and audio
(lectures and documentaries) and text files, all via links to file sharing
platforms.

What is clear is that the text sharing network described above (I am sure
there are many more related to other fields and subjects) is also formed and
maintained by the fact that the blogs and resource sites link to each other in
their blog rolls, which is what in the end makes up the network of text
sharing, only enhanced by RSS feeds and Twitter accounts, holding together
direct communication streams with the rest of the community. That there has
not been one major platform or aggregation site linking them together and
uploading all the texts is logical if we take into account the text sharing
history described before and this can thus be seen as a clear tactic: it is
fear, fear for what happened to textz.com and fear for the issue of scale and
fear of no longer operating at the borders, on the outside or at the fringes.
Because a larger scale means they might really get noticed. The idea of
secrecy and exclusivity which makes for the idea of the underground is very
practically combined with the idea that in this way the texts are available in
a multitude of places and can thus not be withdrawn or disappear so easily.

This is the paradox of the underground: staying small means not being noticed
(widely), but will mean being able to exist for probably an extended period of
time. Becoming (too) big will mean reaching more people and spreading the
texts further into society, however it will also probably mean being noticed
as a treat, as a ‘network of text-piracy’. The true strategy is to retain this
balance of openly dispersed subversivity.

Update 25 November 2005: Another interesting resource site came to my
attention recently: [Bedeutung](http://http://www.bedeutung.co.uk/index.php),
a philosophical and artistic initiative consisting of three projects:
[Bedeutung
Magazine](http://www.bedeutung.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1&Itemid=3),
[Bedeutung
Collective](http://www.bedeutung.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=67&Itemid=4)
and [Bedeutung Blog](http://bedeutung.wordpress.com/), hosts a
[library](http://www.bedeutung.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=85&Itemid=45)
section which links to freely downloadable online e-books, articles, audio
recordings and videos.

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### _Related_

### 17 comments on " Scanners, collectors and aggregators. On the
‘underground movement’ of (pirated) theory text sharing"

1. Pingback: [Humanism at the fringe « Snarkmarket](http://snarkmarket.com/2009/3428)

2. Pingback: [Scanners, collectors and aggregators. On the 'underground movement' of (pirated) theory text sharing « Mariborchan](http://mariborchan.wordpress.com/2009/09/20/scanners-collectors-and-aggregators-on-the-underground-movement-of-pirated-theory-text-sharing/)

3. Mariborchan

September 20, 2009

![](https://2.gravatar.com/avatar/b8eea582f7e9ac0a622e3dacecad5835?s=55&d=&r=G)

I took the liberty to pirate this article.

4. [jannekeadema1979](http://www.openreflections.wordpress.com)

September 20, 2009

![](https://2.gravatar.com/avatar/e4898febe4230b412db7f7909bcb9fc9?s=55&d=&r=G)

Thanks, it's all about the sharing! Hope you liked it.

5. Pingback: [links for 2009-09-20 « Blarney Fellow](http://blarneyfellow.wordpress.com/2009/09/21/links-for-2009-09-20/)

6. [scars of différance](http://farkyaralari.blogspot.com)

September 30, 2009

![](https://1.gravatar.com/avatar/7b10f9b53e5fe3d284857da59fe8919c?s=55&d=&r=G)

hi there, I'm the owner of the Scars of Différance blog, I'm grateful for your
reading which nurtures self-reflexivity.

text-sharers phylum is a Tardean phenomena, it works through imitation and
differences differentiate styles and archives. my question was inherited from
aby warburg who is perhaps the first kantian librarian (not books, but the
nomenclatura of books must be thought!), I shape up a library where books
speak to each other, each time fragmentary.

you are right about the "fear", that's why I don't reupload books that are
deleted from mediafire. blog is one of the ways, for ex there are e-mail
groups where chain-sharings happen and there are forums where people ask each
other from different parts of the world, to scan a book that can't be found in
their library/country. I understand publishers' qualms (I also work in a
turkish publishing house and make translations). but they miss a point, it was
the very movement which made book a medium that de-posits "book" (in the
Blanchotian sense): these blogs do indeed a very important service, they save
books from the databanks. I'm not going to make a easy rider argument and
decry technology.what I mean is this: these books are the very bricks which
make up resistance -they are not compost-, it is a sharing "partage" and these
fragmentary impartations (the act in which 'we' emancipate books from the
proper names they bear: author, editor, publisher, queen,…) make words blare.
our work: to disenfranchise.

to get larger, to expand: these are too ambitious terms, one must learn to
stay small, remain finite. a blog can not supplant the non-place of the
friendships we make up around books.

the epigraph at the top of my blog reads: "what/who exorbitates mutates into
its opposite" from a Turkish poet Cahit Zarifoğlu. and this logic is what
generates the slithering of the word. we must save books from its own ends.

thanks again, best.

p.s. I'm not the owner of pdf library.

7. Bedeutung

November 24, 2009

![](https://0.gravatar.com/avatar/665e8f5cb5d701f1c7e310b9b6fef277?s=55&d=&r=G)

Here, an article that might interest:

sharing-free-piracy>

8. [jannekeadema1979](http://www.openreflections.wordpress.com)

November 24, 2009

![](https://2.gravatar.com/avatar/e4898febe4230b412db7f7909bcb9fc9?s=55&d=&r=G)

Thanks for the link, good article, agree with the contents, especially like
the part 'Could, for instance, the considerable resources that might be
allocated to protecting, policing and, ultimately, sanctioning online file-
sharing not be used for rendering it less financially damaging for the
creative sector?'
I like this kind of pragmatic reasoning, and I know more people do.
By the way, checked Bedeutung, great journal, and love your
[library](http://www.bedeutung.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=86&Itemid=46)
section! Will add it to the main article.

9. Pingback: [Borderland › Critical Readings](http://borderland.northernattitude.org/2010/01/07/critical-readings/)

10. Pingback: [Mariborchan » Scanners, collectors and aggregators. On the 'underground movement' of (pirated) theory text sharing](http://mariborchan.com/scanners-collectors-and-aggregators-on-the-underground-movement-of-pirated-theory-text-sharing/)

11. Pingback: [Urgh! AAAARG dead? « transversalinflections](http://transversalinflections.wordpress.com/2010/05/29/urgh-aaaarg-dead/)

12. [nick knouf](http://turbulence.org/Works/JJPS)

June 18, 2010

![](https://0.gravatar.com/avatar/9908205c0ec5ecb5f27266e7cb7bff13?s=55&d=&r=G)

This is Nick, the author of the JJPS project; thanks for the tweet! I actually
came across this blog post while doing background research for the project and
looking for discussions about AAAARG; found out about a lot of projects that I
didn't already know about. One thing that I haven't been able to articulate
very well is that I think there's an interesting relationship between, say,
Kenneth Goldsmith's own poetry and his founding of Ubu Web; a collation and
reconfiguration of the detritus of culture (forgotten works of the avant-
gardes locked up behind pay walls of their own, or daily minutiae destined to
be forgotten), which is something that I was trying to do, in a more
circumscribed space, in JJPS Radio. But the question of distribution of
digital works is something I find fascinating, as there are all sorts of
avenues that we could be investigating but we are not. The issue, as it often
is, is one of technical ability, and that's why one of the future directions
of JJPS is to make some of the techniques I used easier to use. Those who want
to can always look into the code, which is of course freely available, but
that cannot and should not be a prerequisite.

13. [jannekeadema1979](http://www.openreflections.wordpress.com)

June 18, 2010

![](https://2.gravatar.com/avatar/e4898febe4230b412db7f7909bcb9fc9?s=55&d=&r=G)

Hi Nick, thanks for your comment. I love the JJPS and it would be great if the
technology you mention would be easily re-usable. What I find fascinating is
how you use another medium (radio) to translate/re-mediate and in a way also
unlock textual material. I see you also have an Open Access and a Cut-up hour.
I am very much interested in using different media to communicate scholarly
research and even more in remixing and re-mediating textual scholarship. I
think your project(s) is a very valuable exploration of these themes while at
the same time being a (performative) critique of the current system. I am in
awe.

14. Pingback: [Text-sharing "in the paradise of too many books" – SLOTHROP](http://slothrop.com/2012/11/16/text-sharing-in-the-paradise-of-too-many-books/)

15. [Jason Kennedy](http://www.facebook.com/903035234)

May 6, 2015

![](https://i2.wp.com/graph.facebook.com/v2.2/903035234/picture?q=type%3Dlarge%26_md5%3Da95c382cfe878c70aaad88831f511711&resize=55%2C55)

Some obvious fails suggest major knowledge gaps regarding sourcing texts
online (outside of legal channels).

And featuring Scribd doesn't help.

Q: What's the largest pirate book site on the net, with an inventory almost as
large as Amazon?

And it's not L_____ G_____

16. [Janneke Adema](http://www.openreflections.wordpress.com)

May 6, 2015

![](https://2.gravatar.com/avatar/e4898febe4230b412db7f7909bcb9fc9?s=55&d=&r=G)

Do enlighten us Jason… And might I remind you that this post was written in
2009?

17. Mike Andrews

May 7, 2015

![](https://0.gravatar.com/avatar/c255ce6922fbb867a2ee635beb85bd71?s=55&d=&r=G)

Interesting topic, but also odd in some respects. Not translating the German
quotes is very unthoughtful and maybe even arrogant. If you are interested in
open access accessibility needs to be your top priority. I can read German,
but many of my friends (and most of the world) can't. It take a little effort
to just fix this, but you can do it.



file sharing in Bodo 2014


Bodo
A Short History of the Russian Digital Shadow Libraries
2014


Draft Manuscript, 11/4/2014, DO NOT CITE!

A short history of the Russian digital shadow libraries
Balazs Bodo, Institute for Information Law, University of Amsterdam

“What I see as a consequence of the free educational book distribution: in decades generations of people
everywhere in the World will grow with the access to the best explained scientific texts of all times.
[…]The quality and accessibility of education to poors will drastically grow too. Frankly, I'm seeing this as
the only way to naturally improve mankind: by breeding people with all the information given to them at
any time.” – Anonymous admin of Aleph, explaining the reason d’étre of the site

Abstract
RuNet, the Russian segment of the internet is now the home of the most comprehensive scientific pirate
libraries on the net. These sites offer free access to hundreds of thousands of books and millions of
journal articles. In this contribution we try to understand the factors that led to the development of
these sites, and the sociocultural and legal conditions that enable them to operate under hostile legal
and political conditions. Through the reconstruction of the micro-histories of peer produced online text
collections that played a central role in the history of RuNet, we are able to link the formal and informal
support for these sites to the specific conditions developed under the Soviet and post Soviet times.

(pirate) libraries on the net
The digitization and collection of texts was one of the very first activities enabled by computers. Project
Gutenberg, the first in line of digital libraries was established as early as 1971. By the early nineties, a
number of online electronic text archives emerged, all hoping to finally realize the dream that was
chased by humans every since the first library: the collection of everything (Battles, 2004), the Memex
(Bush, 1945), the Mundaneum (Rieusset-Lemarié, 1997), the Library of Babel (Borges, 1998). It did not
take long to realize that the dream was still beyond reach: the information storage and retrieval
technology might have been ready, but copyright law, for the foreseeable future was not. Copyright
protection and enforcement slowly became one of the most crucial issues around digital technologies.

1
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2616631

Draft Manuscript, 11/4/2014, DO NOT CITE!
And as that happened, the texts, which were archived without authorization were purged from the
budding digital collections. Those that survived complete deletion were moved into the dark, locked
down sections of digital libraries that sometimes still lurk behind the law-abiding public façades. Hopes
for a universal digital library can be built was lost in just a few short years as those who tried it (such as
Google or Hathitrust) got bogged down in endless court battles.
There are unauthorized texts collections circulating on channels less susceptible to enforcement, such as
DVDs, torrents, or IRC channels. But the technical conditions of these distribution channels do not enable
the development of a library. Two of the most essential attributes of any proper library: the catalogue
and the community are hard to provide on such channels. The catalog doesn’t just organize the
knowledge stored in the collection; it is not just a tool of searching and browsing. It is a critical
component in the organization of the community of “librarians” who preserve and nourish the
collection. The catalog is what distinguishes an unstructured heap of computer files from a wellmaintained library, but it is the same catalog, which makes shadow libraries, unauthorized texts
collections an easy target of law enforcement. Those few digital online libraries that dare to provide
unauthorized access to texts in an organized manner, such as textz.org, a*.org, monoskop or Gigapedia/
library.nu, all had their bad experiences with law enforcement and rights holder dismay.
Of these pirate libraries, Gigapedia—later called Library.nu—was the largest at the turn of the 2010’s. At
its peak, it was several orders of magnitudes bigger than its peers, offering access to nearly a million
English language documents. It was not just size that made Gigapedia unique. Unlike most sites, it
moved beyond its initial specialization in scientific texts to incorporate a wide range of academic
disciplines. Compared to its peers, it also had a highly developed central metadata database, which
contained bibliographic details on the collection and also, significantly, on gaps in the collection, which
underpinned a process of actively solicited contributions from users. With the ubiquitous
scanner/copiers, the production of book scans was as easy as copying them, thus the collection grew
rapidly.
Gigapedia’s massive catalog made the site popular, which in turn made it a target. In early 2012, a group
of 17 publishers was granted an injunction against the site (now called Library.nu; and against iFile.it—
the hosting site that stored most of Library.nu’s content). Unlike the record and movie companies,
which had collaborated on dozens of lawsuits over the past decade, the Library.nu injunction and lawsuit
were the first coordinated publisher actions against a major file-sharing site, and the first to involve
major university publishers in particular. Under the injunction, the Library.nu adminstrators closed the
site. The collection disappeared and the community around it dispersed. (Liang, 2012)
Gigapedia’s collection was integrated into Aleph’s predominantly Russian language collection before the
shutdown, making Aleph the natural successor of Gigapedia/library.nu.

Libraries in the RuNet

2
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2616631

Draft Manuscript, 11/4/2014, DO NOT CITE!
The search soon zeroed in on a number of sites with strong hints to their Russian origins. Sites like Aleph,
[sc], [fi], [os] are open, completely free to use, and each offers access to a catalog comparable to the late
Gigapedia’s.
The similarity of these seemingly distinct services is no coincidence. These sites constitute a tightly knit
network, in which Aleph occupies the central position. Aleph, as its name suggests, is the source library,
it aims to seed of all scientific digital libraries on the net. Its mission is simple and straightforward. It
collects free-floating scientific texts and other collections from the Internet and consolidates them (both
content and metadata) into a single, open database. Though ordinary users can search the catalog and
retrieve the texts, its main focus is the distribution of the catalog and the collection to anyone who
wants to build services upon them. Aleph has regularly updated links that point to its own, neatly packed
source code, its database dump, and to the terabytes worth of collection. It is a knowledge infrastructure
that can be freely accessed, used and built upon by anyone. This radical openness enables a number of
other pirate libraries to offer Aleph’s catalogue along with books coming from other sources. By
mirroring Aleph they take over tasks that the administrators of Aleph are unprepared or unwilling to do.
Handling much of the actual download traffic they relieve Aleph from the unavoidable investment in
servers and bandwidth, which, in turn puts less pressure on Aleph to engage in commercial activities to
finance its operation. While Aleph stays in the background, the network of mirrors compete for
attention, users and advertising revenue as their design, business model, technical sophistication is finetuned to the profile of their intended target audience.
This strategy of creating an open infrastructure serves Aleph well. It ensures the widespread distribution
of books while it minimizes (legal) exposure. By relinquishing control, Aleph also ensures its own longterm survival, as it is copied again and again. In fact, openness is the core element in the philosophy of
Aleph, which was summed up by one of its administrators as to:
“- collect valuable science/technology/math/medical/humanities academic literature. That is,
collect humanity's valuable knowledge in digital form. Avoid junky books. Ignore "bestsellers".
- build a community of people who share knowledge, improve quality of books, find good and
valuable books, and correct errors.
- share the files freely, spreading the knowledge altruistically, not trying to make money, not
charging money for knowledge. Here people paid money for many books that they considered
valuable and then shared here on [Aleph], for free. […]
This is the true spirit of the [Aleph] project.”

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Reading, publishing, censorship and libraries in Soviet-Russia
“[T]he library of the Big Lubyanka was unique. In all probability it had been assembled out of confiscated
private libraries. The bibliophiles who had collected those books had already rendered up their souls to
God. But the main thing was that while State Security had been busy censoring and emasculating all the
libraries of the nation for decades, it forgot to dig in its own bosom. Here, in its very den, one could read
Zamyatin, Pilnyak, Panteleimon Romanov, and any volume at all of the complete works of Merezhkovsky.
(Some people wisecracked that they allowed us to read forbidden books because they already regarded
us as dead. But I myself think that the Lubyanka librarians hadn't the faintest concept of what they were
giving us—they were simply lazy and ignorant.)”
(Solzhenitsyn, 1974)
In order to properly understand the factors that shaped Russian pirate librarians’ and their wider
environments’ attitudes towards bottom-up, collaborative, copyright infringing open source digital
librarianship, we need to go back nearly a century and take a close look at the specific social and political
conditions of the Soviet times that shaped the contemporary Russian intelligentsia’s attitudes towards
knowledge.

The communist ideal of a reading nation
Russian culture always had a reverence for the printed word, and the Soviet state, with its Leninist
program of mass education further stressed the idea of the educated, reading public. As Stelmach (1993)
put it:
Reading almost transplanted religion as a sacred activity: in the secularized socialist state, where the
churches were closed, the free press stifled and schools and universities politicized, literature became the
unique source of moral truth for the population. Writers were considered teachers and prophets.
The Soviet Union was a reading culture: in the last days of the USSR, a quarter of the adult population
were considered active readers, and almost everyone else categorized as an occasional reader. Book
prices were low, alternative forms of entertainment were scarce, and people were poor, making reading
one of the most attractive leisure activities.
The communist approach towards intellectual property protection reflected the idea of the reading
nation. The Soviet Union inherited a lax and isolationist copyright system from the tsarist Russia. Neither
the tsarist Russian state nor the Soviet state adhered to international copyright treaties, nor did they
enter into bilateral treaties. Tsarist Russia’s refusal to grant protection to foreign authors and
translations had primarily an economic rationale. The Soviet regime added a strong ideological claim:
granting exclusive ownership to authors was against the interests of the reading public, and “the cultural
development of the masses,” and only served the private interests of authors and heirs.
“If copyright had an economic function, that was only as a right of remuneration for his contribution to
the extension of the socialist art heritage. If copyright had a social role, this was not to protect the author

4

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from the economically stronger exploiter, but was one of the instruments to get the author involved in
the great communist educational project.” (Elst, 2005, p 658)
The Soviet copyright system, even in its post-revolutionary phase, maintained two persistent features
that served as important instruments of knowledge dissemination. First, the statutorily granted
“freedom of translation” meant that translation was treated as an exception to copyright, which did not
require rights holder authorization. This measure dismantled a significant barrier to access in a
multicultural and multilingual empire. By the same token, the denial of protection to foreign authors and
rights holders eased the imports of foreign texts (after, of course the appropriate censorship review).
Due to these instruments:
“[s]oon after its founding, the Soviet Union became as well the world's leading literary pirate, not only
publishing in translation the creations of its own citizens but also publishing large numbers of copies of
the works of Western authors both in translation and in the original language.” (Newcity, 1980, p 6.)
Looking simply at the aggregate numbers of published books, the USSR had an impressive publishing
industry on a scale appropriate to a reading nation. Between 1946 and 1970 more than 1 billion copies of
over 26 thousand different work were published, all by foreign authors (Newcity, 1978). In 1976 alone,
more than 1.7 billion copies of 84,304 books were printed. (Friedberg, Watanabe, & Nakamoto, 1984, fn
4.)
Of course these impressive numbers reflected neither a healthy public sphere, nor a well-functioning
print ecology. The book-based public sphere was both heavily censored and plagued by the peculiar
economic conditions of the Soviet, and later the post-Soviet era.

Censorship
The totalitarian Soviet state had many instruments to control the circulation of literary and scientific
works. 1 Some texts never entered official circulation in the first hand: “A particularly harsh
prepublication censorship [affected] foreign literature, primarily in the humanities and socioeconomic
disciplines. Books on politics, international relations, sociology, philosophy, cybernetics, semiotics,
linguistics, and so on were hardly ever published.” (Stelmakh, 2001, p 145.)
Many ‘problematic’ texts were only put into severely limited circulation. Books were released in small
print runs; as in-house publications, or they were only circulated among the trustworthy few. As the
resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of June 4, 1959, stated: “Writings by
bourgeois authors in the fields of philosophy, history, economics, diplomacy, and law […] are to be
published in limited quantities after the excision from them of passages of no scholarly or practical

1

We share Helen Freshwater’s (2003) approach that censorship is a more complex phenomenon than the state just
blocking the circulation of certain texts. Censorship manifested itself in more than one ways and its dominant
modus operandi, institutions, extent, focus, reach, effectiveness showed extreme variations over time. This short
chapter however cannot go into the intricate details of the incredibly rich history of censorship in the Soviet Union.
Instead, through much simplification we try to demonstrate that censorship did not only affect literary works, but
extended deep into scholarly publishing, including natural science disciplines.

5

Draft Manuscript, 11/4/2014, DO NOT CITE!
interest. They are to be supplied with extensive introductions and detailed annotations." (quoted in
Friedberg et al., 1984)
Truncation and mutilation of texts was also frequent. Literary works and texts from humanities and
social sciences were obvious subjects of censorship, but natural sciences and technical fields did not
escape:
“In our film studios we received an American technical journal, something like Cinema, Radio and
Television. I saw it on the chief engineer's desk and noticed that it had been reprinted in Moscow.
Everything undesirable, including advertisements, had been removed, and only those technical articles
with which the engineer could be trusted were retained. Everything else, even whole pages, was missing.
This was done by a photo copying process, but the finished product appeared to be printed.” (Dewhirst &
Farrell, 1973, p. 127)
Mass cultural genres were also subject to censorship and control. Women's fiction, melodrama, comics,
detective stories, and science fiction were completely missing or heavily underrepresented in the mass
market. Instead, “a small group of officially approved authors […] were published in massive editions
every year, [and] blocked readers' access to other literature. […]Soviet literature did not fit the formula
of mass culture and was simply bad literature, but it was issued in huge print-runs.” (Stelmakh, 2001, p.
150)
Libraries were also important instruments of censorship. When not destroyed altogether, censored
works ended up in the spetskhrans, limited access special collections established in libraries to contain
censored works. Besides obvious candidates such as anti-Soviet works and western ‘bourgeois’
publications, many scientific works from the fields of biology, nuclear physics, psychology, sociology,
cybernetics, and genetics ended up in these closed collections (Ryzhak, 2005). Access to the spetskhrans
was limited to those with special permits issued by their employers. “Only university educated readers
were enrolled and only those holding positions of at least junior scientific workers were allowed to read
the publications kept by the spetskhran” (Ryzhak, 2005). In the last years of the USSR, the spetskhran of
the Russian State Library—the largest of them with more than 1 million items in the collection—had 43
seats for its roughly 4500 authorized readers. Yearly circulation was around 200,000 items, a figure that
included “the history and literature of other countries, international relations, science of law, technical
sciences and others.” (Ryzhak, 2005)
Librarians thus played a central role in the censorship machinery. They did more than guard the contents
of limited-access collections and purge the freely accessible stocks according to the latest Party
directives. As the intermediaries between the readers and the closed stacks, their task was to carefully
guide readers’ interests:
“In the 1970s, among the staff members of the service department of the Lenin State Library of the
U.S.S.R., there were specially appointed persons-"politcontrollers"-who, apart from their regular
professional functions, had to perform additional control over the literature lent from the general stocks
(not from the restricted access collections), thus exercising censorship over the percolation of avant-garde

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aesthetics to the reader, the aesthetics that introduced new ways of thinking and a new outlook on life
and social behavior.” (Stelmakh, 2001)
Librarians also used library cards and lending histories to collect and report information on readers and
suspicious reading habits.
Soviet economic dysfunction also severely limited access to printed works. Acute and chronic shortages
of even censor-approved texts were common, both on the market and in libraries. When the USSR
joined its first first international copyright treaty in its history in 1973 (the UNESCO-backed Universal
Copyright Convention), which granted protection to foreign authors and denied “freedom of
translation,” the access problems only got worse. Soviet concern that granting protection to foreign
authors would result in significant royalty payments to western rightsholders proved valid. By 1976, the
yearly USSR trade deficit in publishing reached a million rubles (~5.5 million current USD) (Levin, 1983, p.
157). This imbalance not only affected the number of publications that were imported into the cashpoor country, but also raised the price of translated works to the double that of Russian-authored books
(Levin, 1983, p. 158).

The literary and scientific underground in Soviet times
Various practices and informal institutions evolved to address the problems of access. Book black
markets flourished: “In the 1970s and 1980s the black market was an active part of society. Buying books
directly from other people was how 35 percent of Soviet adults acquired books for their own homes, and
68 percent of families living in major cities bought books only on the black market.” (Stelmakh, 2001, p
146). Book copying and hoarding was practiced to supplement the shortages:
“People hoarded books: complete works of Pushkin, Tolstoy or Chekhov. You could not buy such things.
So you had the idea that it is very important to hoard books. High-quality literary fiction, high quality
science textbooks and monographs, even biographies of famous people (writers, scientists, composers,
etc.) were difficult to buy. You could not, as far as I remember, just go to a bookstore and buy complete
works of Chekhov. It was published once and sold out and that's it. Dostoyevsky used to be prohibited in
the USSR, so that was even rarer. Lots of writers were prohibited, like Nabokov. Eventually Dostoyevsky
was printed in the USSR, but in very small numbers.
And also there were scientists who wanted scientific books and also could not get them. Mathematics
books, physics - only very few books were published every year, you can't compare this with the market in
the U.S. Russian translations of classical monographs in mathematics were difficult to find.
So, in the USSR, everyone who had a good education shared the idea that hoarding books is very, very
important, and did just that. If someone had free access to a Xerox machine, they were Xeroxing
everything in sight. A friend of mine had entire room full of Xeroxed books.”2
From the 1960s onwards, the ever-growing Samizdat networks tried to counterbalance the effects of
censorship and provide access to both censored classics and information on the current state of Soviet

2

Anonymous source #1

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society. Reaching a readership of around 200,000, these networks operated in a networked, bottom-up
manner. Each node in the chain of distribution copied the texts it received, and distributed the copies.
The nodes also carried information backwards, towards the authors of the samizdat publications.
In the immediate post-Soviet political turmoil and economic calamity, access to print culture did not get
any easier. Censorship officially ended, but so too did much of the funding for the state-funded
publishing sector. Mass unemployment, falling wages, and the resulting loss of discretionary income did
not facilitate the shift toward market-based publishing models. The funding of libraries also dwindled,
limiting new acquisitions (Elst, 2005, p. 299-300). Economic constraints took the place of political ones.
But in the absence of political repression, self-organizing efforts to address these constraints acquired
greater scope of action. Slowly, the informal sphere began to deliver alternative modes of access to
otherwise hard-to-get literary and scientific works.
Russian pirate libraries emerged from these enmeshed contexts: communist ideologies of the reading
nation and mass education; the censorship of texts; the abused library system; economic hardships and
dysfunctional markets, and, most importantly, the informal practices that ensured the survival of
scholarship and literary traditions under hostile political and economic conditions. The prominent place
of Russian pirate libraries in the larger informal media economy—and of Russian piracy of music, film,
and other copyrighted work more generally—cannot be understood outside this history.

The emergence of DIY digital libraries in RuNet
The copying of censored and uncensored works (by hand, by typewriters, by photocopying or by
computers), the hoarding of copied texts, the buying and selling of books on the black market, and the
informal, peer-to-peer distribution of samizdat material were integral parts of the everyday experience
of much of educated Soviet and post-Soviet readers. The building and maintenance of individual
collections and the participation in the informal networks of exchange offered a sense of political,
economic and cultural agency—especially as the public institutions that supported the core professions
of the intelligentsia fell into sustained economic crisis.
Digital technologies were embraced by these practices as soon as they appeared:
"From late 1970s, when first computers became used in the USSR and printers became available,
people started to print forbidden books, or just books that were difficult to find, not necessarily
forbidden. I have seen myself a print-out on a mainframe computer of a science fiction novel,
printed in all caps! Samizdat was printed on typewriters, xeroxed, printed abroad and xeroxed, or
printed on computers. Only paper circulated, files could not circulate until people started to have
PCs at home. As late as 1992 most people did not have a PC at home. So the only reason to type
a big text into a computer was to print it on paper many times.”3
People who worked in academic and research institutions were well positioned in this process: they had
access to computers, and many had access to the materials locked up in the spetskhrans. Many also had
3

Anonymous source #1

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the time and professional motivations to collect and share otherwise inaccessible texts. The core of
current digital collections was created in this late-Soviet/early post-Soviet period by such professionals.
Their home academic and scientific institutions continued to play an important role in the development
of digital text collections well into the era of home computing and the internet.
Digitized texts first circulated in printouts and later on optical/magnetic storage media. With the
emergence of digital networking these texts quickly found their way to the early Internet as well. The
first platform for digital text sharing was the Russian Fidonet, a network of BBS systems similar to
Usenet, which enabled the mass distribution of plain text files. The BBS boards, such as the Holy Spirit
BBS’ “SU.SF & F.FANDOM” group whose main focus was Soviet-Russian science fiction and fantasy
literature, connected fans around emerging collections of shared texts. As an anyonmous interviewee
described his experience in the early 1990s…
“Fidonet collected a large number of plaintext files in literature / fiction, mostly in Russian, of course.
Fidonet was almost all typed in by hand. […] Maybe several thousand of the most important books,
novels that "everyone must read" and such stuff. People typed in poetry, smaller prose pieces. I have
myself read a sci-fi novel printed on a mainframe, which was obviously typed in. This novel was by
Strugatski brothers. It was not prohibited or dissident, but just impossible to buy in the stores. These
were culturally important, cult novels, so people typed them in. […] At this point it became clear that
there was a lot of value in having a plaintext file with some novels, and the most popular novels were first
digitized in this way.”
The next stage in the text digitization started around 1994. By that time growing numbers of people had
computers, scanning peripherals, OCR software. Russian internet and PC penetration while extremely
low overall in the 1990s (0.1% of the population having internet access in 1994, growing to 8.3% by
2003), began to make inroads in educational and scientific institutions and among Moscow and
St.Petersburg elites, who were often the critical players in these networks. As access to technologies
increased a much wider array of people began to digitize their favorite texts, and these collections began
to circulate, first via CD-ROMs, later via the internet.
One of such collection belonged to Maxim Moshkov, who published his library under the name lib.ru in
1994. Moshkov was a graduate of the Moscow State University Department of Mechanics and
Mathematics, which played a large role in the digitization of scientific works. After graduation, he started
to work for the Scientific Research Institute of System Development, a computer science institute
associated with the Russian Academy of Sciences. He describes the early days of his collection as follows:
“ I began to collect electronic texts in 1990, on a desktop computer. When I got on the Internet in 1994, I
found lots of sites with texts. It was like a dream came true: there they were, all the desired books. But
these collections were in a dreadful state! Incompatible formats, different encodings, missing content. I
had to spend hours scouring the different sites and directories to find something.
As a result, I decided to convert all the different file-formats into a single one, index the titles of the books
and put them in thematic directories. I organized the files on my work computer. I was the main user of
my collection. I perfected its structure, made a simple, fast and convenient search interface and

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developed many other useful functions and put it all on the Internet. Soon, people got into the habit of
visiting the site. […]
For about 2 years I have scoured the internet: I sought out and pulled texts from the network, which were
lying there freely accessible. Slowly the library grew, and the audience increased with it. People started
to send books to me, because they were easier to read in my collection. And the time came when I
stopped surfing the internet for books: regular readers are now sending me the books. Day after day I get
about 100 emails, and 10-30 of them contain books. So many books were sent in, that I did not have time
to process them. Authors, translators and publishers also started to send texts. They all needed the
library.”(Мошков, 1999)

In the second half of the 1990’s, the Russian Internet—RuNet—was awash in book digitization projects.
With the advent of scanners, OCR technology, and the Internet, the work of digitization eased
considerably. Texts migrated from print to digital and sometimes back to print again. They circulated
through different collections, which, in turn, merged, fell apart, and re-formed. Digital libraries with the
mission to collect and consolidate these free-floating texts sprung up by the dozens.
Such digital librarianship was the antithesis of official Soviet book culture: it was free, bottom-up,
democratic, and uncensored. It also offered a partial remedy to problems created by the post-Soviet
collapse of the economy: the impoverishment of libraries, readers, and publishers. In this context, book
digitization and collecting also offered a sense of political, economic and cultural agency, with parallels
to the copying and distribution of texts in Soviet times. The capacity to scale up these practices coincided
with the moment when anti-totalitarian social sentiments were the strongest, and economic needs the
direst.
The unprecedented bloom of digital librarianship is the result of the superimposition of multiple waves
of distinct transformations: technological, political, economical and social. “Maksim Moshkov's Library”
was ground zero for this convergence and soon became a central point of exchange for the community
engaged in text digitization and collection:
[At the outset] there were just a couple of people who started scanning books in large quantities. Literally
hundreds of books. Others started proofreading, etc. There was a huge hole in the market for books.
Science fiction, adventure, crime fiction, all of this was hugely in demand by the public. So lib.ru was to a
large part the response, and was filled by those books that people most desired and most valued.
For years, lib.ru integrated as much as it could of the different digital libraries flourishing in the RuNet. By
doing so, it preserved the collections of the many short-lived libraries.
This process of collection slowed in the early 2000’s. By that time, lib.ru had all of the classics, resulting
in a decrease in the flow of new digitized material. By the same token, the Russian book market was
finally starting to offer works aimed at the popular mainstream, and was flooded by cheap romances,
astrology, crime fiction, and other genres. Such texts started to appear in, and would soon flood lib.ru.
Many contributors, including Moshkov, were concerned that such ephemera would dilute the original
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library. And so they began to disaggregate the collection. Self-published literature, “user generated
content,” and fan fiction was separated into the aptly named samizdat.lib.ru, which housed original texts
submitted by readers. Popular fiction--“low-brow literature”—was copied from the relevant subsections
of lib.ru and split off. Sites specializing in those genres quickly formed their own ecosystem. [L], the first
of its kind, now charges a monthly fee to provide access to the collection. The [f] community split off
from [L] the same way that [L] split off from lib.ru, to provide free and unrestricted access to a
fundamentally similar collection. Finally, some in the community felt the need to focus their efforts on a
separate collection of scientific works. This became Kolhoz collection.

The genesis of a million book scientific library
A Kolhoz (Russian: колхо́ з) was one of the types of collective farm that emerged in the early Soviet
period. In the early days, it was a self-governing, community-owned collaborative enterprise, with many
of the features of a commons. For the Russian digital librarians, these historical resonances were
intentional.
The kolhoz group was initially a community that scanned and processed scientific materials: books and,
occasionally, articles. The ethos was free sharing. Academic institutes in Russia were in dire need of
scientific texts; they xeroxed and scanned whatever they could. Usually, the files were then stored on the
institute's ftp site and could be downloaded freely. There were at least three major research institutes
that did this, back in early 2000s, unconnected to each other in any way, located in various faraway parts
of Russia. Most of these scans were appropriated by the kolhoz group and processed into DJVU4.
The sources of files for kolhoz were, initially, several collections from academic institutes (downloaded
whenever the ftp servers were open for anonymous access; in one case, from one of the institutes of the
Chinese academy of sciences, but mostly from Russian academic institutes). At that time (around 2002),
there were also several commercialized collections of scanned books on sale in Russia (mostly, these were
college-level textbooks on math and physics); these files were also all copied to kolhoz and processed into
DJVU. The focus was on collecting the most important science textbooks and monographs of all time, in
all fields of natural science.
There was never any commercial support. The kolhoz group never had a web site with a database, like
most projects today. They had an ftp server with files, and the access to ftp was given by PM in a forum.
This ftp server was privately supported by one of the members (who was an academic researcher, like
most kolhoz members). The files were distributed directly by burning files on writable DVDs and giving the

4

DJVU is a file format that revolutionized online book distribution the way mp3 revolutionized the online music
distribution. For books that contain graphs, images and mathematical formulae scanning is the only digitization
option. However, the large number of resulting image files is difficult to handle. The DJVU file format allows for the
images of scanned book pages to be stored in the smallest possible file size, which makes it the perfect medium for
the distribution of scanned e-books.

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DVDs away. Later, the ftp access was closed to the public, and only a temporary file-swapping ftp server
remained. Today the kolhoz DVD releases are mostly spread via torrents.” 5
Kolhoz amassed around fifty thousand documents, the mexmat collection of the Moscow State
University Department of Mechanics and Mathematics (Moshkov’s alma mater) was around the same
size, the “world of books” collection (mirknig) had around thirty thousand files, and there were around a
dozen other smaller archives, each with approximately 10 thousand files in their respective collections.
The Kolhoz group dominated the science-minded ebook community in Russia well into the late 2000’s.
Kolhoz, however, suffered from the same problems as the early Fidonet-based text collections. Since it
was distributed in DVDs, via ftp servers and on torrents, it was hard to search, it lacked a proper catalog
and it was prone to fragmentation. Parallel solutions soon emerged: around 2006-7, an existing book site
called Gigapedia copied the English books from Kolhoz, set up a catalog, and soon became the most
influential pirate library in the English speaking internet.
Similar cataloguing efforts soon emerged elsewhere. In 2007, someone on rutracker.ru, a Russian BBS
focusing on file sharing, posted torrent links to 91 DVDs containing science and technology titles
aggregated from various other Russian sources, including Kolhoz. This massive collection had no
categorization or particular order. But it soon attracted an archivist: a user of the forum started the
laborious task of organizing the texts into a usable, searchable format—first filtering duplicates and
organizing existing metadata first into an excel spreadsheet, and later moving to a more open, webbased database operating under the name Aleph.
Aleph inherited more than just books from Kolhoz and Moshkov’s lib.ru. It inherited their elitism with
regard to canonical texts, and their understanding of librarianship as a community effort. Like the earlier
sites, Aleph’s collections are complemented by a stream of user submissions. Like the other sites, the
number of submissions grew rapidly as the site’s visibility, reputation and trustworthiness was
established, and like the others it later fell, as more and more of what was perceived as canonical
literature was uploaded:
“The number of mankind’s useful books is about what we already have. So growth is defined by newly
scanned or issued books. Also, the quality of the collection is represented not by the number of books but
by the amount of knowledge it contains. [ALEPH] does not need to grow more and I am not the only one
among us who thinks so. […]
We have absolutely no idea who sends books in. It is practically impossible to know, because there are a
million books. We gather huge collections which eliminate any traces of the original uploaders.
My expectation is that new arrivals will dry up. Not completely, as I described above, some books will
always be scanned or rescanned (it nowadays happens quite surprisingly often) and the overall process of
digitization cannot and should not be stopped. It is also hard to say when the slowdown will occur: I
expected it about a year ago, but then library.nu got shut down and things changed dramatically in many
respects. Now we are "in charge" (we had been the largest anyways, just now everyone thinks we are in
5

Anonymous source #1

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charge) and there has been a temporary rise in the book inflow. At the moment, relatively small or
previously unseen collections are being integrated into [ALEPH]. Perhaps in a year it will saturate.
However, intuition is not a good guide. There are dynamic processes responsible for eBook availability. If
publishers massively digitize old books, they'll obviously be harvested and that will change the whole
picture.” 6
Aleph’s ambitions to create a universal library are limited , at least in terms of scope. It does not want to
have everything, or anything. What it wants is what is thought to be relevant by the community,
measured by the act of actively digitizing and sharing books. But it has created a very interesting strategy
to establish a library which is universal in terms of its reach. The administrators of Aleph understand that
Gigapedia’s downfall was due to its visibility and they wish to avoid that trap:
“Well, our policy, which I control as strictly as I can, is to avoid fame. Gigapedia's policy was to gain as
much fame as possible. Books should be available to you, if you need them. But let the rest of the world
stay in its equilibrium. We are taking great care to hide ourselves and it pays off.”7
They have solved the dilemma of providing access without jeopardizing their mission by open sourcing
the collection and thus allowing others to create widely publicized services that interface with the
public.They let others run the risk of getting famous.

Mirrors and communities
Aleph serves as a source archive for around a half-dozen freely accessible pirate libraries on the net. The
catalog database is downloadable, the content is downloadable, even the server code is downloadable.
No passwords are required to download and there are no gatekeepers. There are no obstacle to setting
up a similar library with a wider catalog, with improved user interface and better services, with a
different audience or, in fact, a different business model.
This arrangement creates a two-layered community. The core group of the Aleph admins maintains the
current service, while a loose and ever changing network of ‘mirror sites’ build on the Aleph
infrastructure.
“The unspoken agreement is that the mirrors support our ideas. Otherwise we simply do not interact with
them. If the mirrors do support this, they appear in the discussions, on the Web etc. in a positive context.
This is again about building a reputation: if they are reliable, we help with what we can, otherwise they
should prove the World they are good on their own. We do not request anything from them. They are free
to do anything they like. But if they do what we do not agree with, it'll be taken into account in future
relations. If you think for a while, there is no other democratic way of regulation: everyone expresses his
own views and if they conform with ours, we support them. If the ideology does not match, it breaks
down.”8

6

Anonymous source #1
Anonymous source #2
8
Anonymous source #1
7

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The core Aleph team claims to exclusively control only two critical resources: the BBS that is the home of
the community, and the book-uploading interface. That claim is, however, not entirely accurate. For the
time being, the academic minded e-book community indeed gathers on the BBS managed by Aleph, and
though there is little incentive to move on, technically nothing stands in the way of alternatives to spring
up. As for the centralization of the book collection: many of the mirrors have their own upload pages
where one can contribute to a mirror’s collection, and it is not clear how or whether books that land at
one of the mirrors find their way back to the central database. Aleph also offers a desktop library
management tool, which enables dedicated librarians to see the latest Aleph database on their desktop
and integrate their local collections with the central database via this application. Nevertheless, it seems
that nothing really stands in the way of the fragmentation of the collection, apart from the willingness of
uploaders to contribute directly to Aleph rather than to one of its mirrors (or other sites).
Funding for Aleph comes from the administrators’ personal resources as well as occasional donations
when there is a need to buy or rent equipment or services:
“[W]e've been asking and getting support for this purpose for years. […] All our mirrors are supported
primarily from private pockets and inefficient donation schemes: they bring nothing unless a whole
campaign is arranged. I asked the community for donations 3 or 4 times, for a specific purpose only and
with all the budget spoken for. And after getting the requested amount of money we shut down the
donations.”9
Mirrors, however, do not need to be non-commercial to enjoy the support of the core Aleph community,
they just have to provide free access. Ad-supported business models that do not charge for individual
access are still acceptable to the community, but there has been serious fallout with another site, which
used the Aleph stock to seed its own library, but decided to follow a “collaborative piracy” business
approach.
“To make it utmost clear: we collaborate with anyone who shares the ideology of free knowledge
distribution. No conditions. [But] we can't suddenly start supporting projects that earn money. […]
Moreover, we've been tricked by commercial projects in the past when they used the support of our
community for their own benefit.”10
The site in question, [e], is based on a simple idea: If a user cannot find a book in its collection, the
administrators offer to purchase a digital or print copy, rip it, and sell it to the user for a fraction of the
original price—typically under $1. Payments are to be made in Amazon gift cards which make the
purchases easy but the de-anonymization of users difficult. [e] recoups its investment, in principle,
through resale. While clearly illegal, the logic is not that different from that of private subscription
libraries, which purchase a resource and distribute the costs and benefits among club members.

9

BBS comment posted on Jan 15, 2013
BBS comment posted on Jan 15, 2013

10

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Although from the rights holders’ perspective there is little difference between the two approaches,
many participants in the free access community draw a sharp line between the two, viewing the sales
model as a violation of community norms.
“[e] is a scam. They were banned in our forum. Yes, most of the books in [e] came from [ALEPH], because
[ALEPH] is open, but we have nothing to do with them... If you wish to buy a book, do it from legal
sources. Otherwise it must be free.[…]
What [e] wants:
- make money on ebook downloads, no matter what kind of ebooks.
- get books from all the easy sources - spend as little effort as possible on books - maximize profit.
- no need to build a community, no need to improve quality, no need to correct any errors - just put all
files in a big pile - maximize profit.
- files are kept in secret, never given away, there is no listing of files, there is no information about what
books are really there or what is being done.
There are very few similarities in common between [e]and [ALEPH], and these similarities are too
superficial to serve as a common ground for communication. […]
They run an illegal business, making a profit.”11
Aleph administrators describe a set of values that differentiates possible site models. They prioritize the
curatorial mission and the provision of long term free access to the collection with all the costs such a
position implies, such as open sourcing the collection, ignoring takedown requests, keeping a low profile,
refraining from commercial activities, and as a result, operating on a reduced budget . [e] prioritizes the
expansion of its catalogue on demand but that implies a commercial operation, a larger budget and the
associated high legal risk. Sites carrying Aleph’s catalogue prioritize public visibility, carry ads to cover
costs but respond to takedown requests to avoid as much trouble as they can. From the perspective of
expanding access, these are not easy or straightforward tradeoffs. In Aleph’s case, the strong
commitment to the mission of providing free access comes with significant sacrifices, the most important
of which is relinquishing control over its most valuable asset: its collection of 1.2 million scientific books.
But they believe that these costs are justified by the promise, that this way the fate of free access is not
tied to the fate of Aleph.
The fact that piratical file sharing communities are willing to make substantial sacrifices (in terms of selfrestraint) to ensure their long term survival has been documented in a number of different cases. (Bodó,
2013) Aleph is unique, however in its radical open source approach. No other piratical community has
given up all the control over itself entirely. This approach is rooted in the way how it regards the legal
status of its subject matter, i.e. scholarly publications in the first place. While norms of openness in the
field of scientific knowledge production were first formed in the Enlightenment period, Aleph’s
11

BBS comments posted on Jul 02, 2013, and Aug 25, 2013

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copynorms are as much shaped by the specificities of post-Soviet era as by the age old realization that in
science we can see further if we are allowed “standing on the shoulders of giants”.

Copyright and copynorms around Russian pirate libraries
The struggle to re-establish rightsholders’ control over digitized copyrighted works has defined the
copyright policy arena since Napster emerged in 1999. Russia brought a unique history to this conflict. In
Russia, digital libraries and their emerged in a period a double transformation: the post-Soviet copyright
system had to adopt global norms, while the global norms struggled to adapt to the emergence of digital
copying.
The first post-Soviet decade produced new copyright laws that conformed with some of the international
norms advocated by Western rightsholders, but little legal clarity or enforceability (Sezneva & Karaganis,
2011). Under such conditions, informally negotiated copynorms set in to fill the void of non-existent,
unreasonable, or unenforceable laws. The pirate libraries in the RuNet are as much regulated by such
norms as by the actual laws themselves.
During most of the 1990’s user-driven digitization and archiving was legal, or to be more exact, wasn’t
illegal. The first Russian copyright law, enacted in 1993, did not cover “internet rights” until a 2006
amendment (Budylin & Osipova, 2007; Elst, 2005, p. 425). As a result, many argued (including the
Moscow prosecutor’s office), that the distribution of copyrighted works via the internet was not
copyright infringement. Authors and publishers, who saw their works appear in digital form, and
circulated via CD-ROMs and the internet, had to rely on informal norms, still in development, to establish
control over their texts vis-à-vis enthusiastic collectors and for-profit entrepreneurs.
The HARRYFAN CD was one of the early examples of a digital text collection in circulation before internet
access was widespread. The CD contained around ten thousand texts, mostly Russian science fiction. It
was compiled in 1997 by Igor Zagumenov, a book enthusiast, from the texts that circulated on the Holy
Spirit BBS. The CD was a non-profit project, planned to be printed and sold in around 1000 copies.
Zagumenov did get in touch with some of the authors and publishers, and got permission to release
some of their texts, but the CD also included many other works that were uploaded to the BBS without
authorization. The CD included the following copyright notice, alongside the name and contact of
Zagumenov and those who granted permission:
Texts on this CD are distributed in electronic format with the consent of the copyright holders or their
literary agent. The disk is aimed at authors, editors, translators and fans SF & F as a compact reference
and information library. Copying or reproduction of this disc is not allowed. For the commercial use of
texts please refer directly to the copyright owners at the following addresses.
The authors whose texts and unpublished manuscripts appeared in the collection without authorization
started to complain to those whose contact details were in the copyright notice. Some complained
about the material damage the collection may have caused to them, but most complaints focused on
moral rights: unauthorized publication of a manuscript, the mutilation of published works, lack of
attribution, or the removal of original copyright and contact notices. Some authors had no problem
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appearing in non-commercially distributed collections but objected to the fact that the CDs were sold
(and later overproduced in spite of Zagumenov’s intentions).
The debate, which took place in the book-related fora of Fidonet, had some important points.
Participants again drew a significant distinction between free access provided first by Fidonet (and later
by lib.ru, which integrated some parts of the collection) and what was perceived as Zagumenov’s forprofit enterprise—despite the fact that the price of the CD only covered printing costs. The debate also
drew authors’ and publishers’ attention to the digital book communities’ actions, which many saw as
beneficial as long as it respected the wishes of the authors. Some authors did not want to appear online
at all, others wanted only their published works to be circulated.
Lib.ru of course integrated the parts of the HARRYFAN CD into its collection. Moshkov’s policy towards
authors’ rights was to ask for permission, if he could contact the author or publisher. He also honored
takedown requests sent to him. In 1999 he wrote on copyright issues as follows:
The author’s interests must be protected on the Internet: the opportunity to find the original copy, the
right of attribution, protection from distorting the work. Anyone who wants to protect his/her rights,
should be ready to address these problems, ranging from the ability to identify the offending party, to the
possibility of proving infringement.[…]
Meanwhile, it has become a stressing question how to protect authors-netizens' rights regarding their
work published on the Internet. It is known that there are a number of periodicals that reprint material
from the Internet without the permission of the author, without payment of a fee, without prior
arrangement. Such offenders need to be shamed via public outreach. The "Wall of shame" website is one
of the positive examples of effective instruments established by the networked public to protect their
rights. It manages to do the job without bringing legal action - polite warnings, an indication of potential
trouble and shaming of the infringer.
Do we need any laws for digital libraries? Probably we do, but until then we have to do without. Yes, of
course, it would be nice to have their status established as “cultural objects” and have the same rights as
a "real library" to collect information, but that might be in the distant future. It would also be nice to
have the e-library "legal deposits" of publications in electronic form, but when even Leninka [the Russian
State Library] cannot always afford that, what we really need are enthusiastic networkers. […]
The policy of the library is to take everything they give, otherwise they cease to send books. It is also to
listen to the authors and strictly comply with their requirements. And it is to grow and prosper. […] I
simply want the books to find their readers because I am afraid to live in a world where no one reads
books. This is already the case in America, and it is speeding up with us. I don’t just want to derail this
process, I would like to turn it around.”

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Moshkov played a crucial role in consolidating copynorms in the Russian digital publishing domain. His
reputation and place in the Russian literary domain is marked by a number of prizes12, and the library’s
continued existence. This place was secured by a number of closely intertwined factors:







Framing and anchoring the digitization and distribution practice in the library tradition.
The non-profit status of the enterprise.
Respecting the wishes of the rights holders even if he was not legally obliged to do so.
Maintaining active communication with the different stakeholders in the community,
including authors and readers.
Responding to a clear gap in affordable, legal access.
Conservatism with regard to the book, anchored in the argument that digital texts are not
substitutes for printed matter.

Many other digital libraries tried to follow Moshkov’s formula, but the times were changing. Internet and
computer access left the sub-cultural niches and became mainstream; commercialization became a
viable option and thus an issue for both the community and rightsholders; and the legal environment
was about to change.

Formalization of the IP regime in the 2000s
As soon as the 1993 copyright law passed, the US resumed pressure on the Russian government for
further reform. Throughout the period—and indeed to the present day—US Trade Representative
Special 301 reports cited inadequate protections and lack of enforcement of copyright. Russia’s plans to
join the WTO, over which the US had effective veto power, also became leverage to bring the Russian
copyright regime into compliance with US norms.
Book piracy was regularly mentioned in Special 301 reports in the 2000s, but the details, alleged losses,
and analysis changed little from year to year. The estimated $40M USD losses per year throughout this
period were dwarfed by claims from the studios and software vendors, and clearly were not among the
top priorities of the USTR. For most of the decade, the electronic availability of bestsellers and academic
textbooks was seen in the context of print substitution, rather than damage to the non-existent
electronic market. And though there is little direct indication, the Special 301 reports name sites which
(unlike lib.ru) were serving audiences beyond the RuNet, indicating that the focus of enforcement was
not to protect US interests in the Russian market, but to prevent sites based in Russia to cater for
demand in the high value Western-European and US markets.
A 1998 amendment to the 1993 copyright law extended the legal framework to encompass digital rights,
though in a fashion that continued to produce controversy. After 1998, digital services had to license
content from collecting societies, but those societies needed no permission from rightsholders provided
they paid royalites. The result was a proliferation of collective management organizations, competing to
license the material to digital services (Sezneva and Karaganis, 2011), which under this arrangement
12

ROTOR, the International Union of Internet Professionals in Russia voted lib.ru as the “literary site of the year” in
1999,2001 and 2003, “electronic library of the year” in 2004,2006,2008,2009, and 2010, “programmer of the year”
in 1999, and “man of the year” in 2004 and 2005.

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were compliant with Russian law, but were regarded as illegal by Western rights holders who claimed
that the Russian collecting societies were not representing them.
The best known of dispute from this time was the one around the legality of Allofmp3.com, a site that
sold music from western record labels at prices far below those iTunes or other officially licensed
vendors. AllofMP3.com claimed that it was licensed by ROMS, the Russian Society for Multimedia and
Internet (Российское общество по мультимедиа и цифровым сетям (НП РОМС)), but despite of that
became the focal point of US (and behind them, major label) pressure, leading to an unsuccessful
criminal prosecution of the site owner and eventual closure of the site in 2007. Although Lib.ru had
some direct agreements with authors, it also licensed much of its collection from ROMS, and thus was in
the same legal situation as AllofMP3.com. .
Lib.ru avoided the attention of foreign rightholders and Russian state pressure and even benefited from
state support during the period, the receiving a $30,000 grant from the Federal Agency for Press and
Mass Communications to digitize the most important works from the 1930’s. But the chaotic licensing
environment that governed their legal status also came back to haunt them. In 2005, a lawsuit was
brought against Moshkov by KM Online (KMO), an online vendor that sold digital texts for a small fee.
Although the KMO collection—like every other collection—had been assembled from a wide range of
sources on the Internet, KMO claimed to pay a 20% royalty on its income to authors. In 2004 KMO
requested that lib.ru take down works by several authors with whom (or with whose heirs) KMO claimed
to be in exclusive contract to distribute their texts online. KMO’s claims turned out to be only partly true.
KMO had arranged contracts with a number of the heirs to classics of the Soviet period, who hoped to
benefit from an obscure provision in the 1993 Russian copyright law that granted copyrights to the heirs
of politically prosecuted and later rehabilitated Soviet-era authors. Moshkov, in turn, claimed that he
had written or oral agreements with many of the same authors and heirs, in addition to his agreement
with ROMS.
The lawsuit was a true public event. It generated thousands of news items both online and in the
mainstream press. Authors, members of the publishing industry, legal professionals, librarians, internet
professionals publicly supported Moshkov, while KMO was seen as a rogue operator that would lie to
make easy money on freely-available digital resources.
Eventually, the court ruled that KMO indeed had one exclusive contract with Eduard Gevorgyan, and that
the publication of his texts by Moshkov infringed the moral (but not the economic) rights of the author.
Moshkov was ordered to pay 3000 Rubles (approximately $100) in compensation.
The lawsuit was a sign of a slow but significant transformation in the Russian print ecosystem. The idea
of a viable market for electronic books began to find a foothold. Electronic versions of texts began to be
regarded as potential substitutes for the printed versions, not advertisements for them or supplements
to them. More and more commercial services emerged, which regard the well-entrenched free digital
libraries as competitors. As Russia continued to bring its laws into closer conformance with WTO
requirements, ahead of Russia’s admission in 2012, western rightsholders gained enough power to
demand enforcement against RuNet pirate sites. The kinds of selective enforcement for political or

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business purposes, which had marked the Russian IP regime throughout the decade (Sezneva &
Karaganis, 2011), slowly gave way to more uniform enforcement.

Closure of the Legal Regime
The legal, economic, and cultural conditions under which Aleph and its mirrors operate today are very
different from those of two decades earlier. The major legal loopholes are now closed, though Russian
authorities have shown little inclination to pursue Aleph so far:
I can't say whether it's the Russian copyright enforcement or the Western one that's most dangerous for
Aleph; I'd say that Russian enforcement is still likely to tolerate most of the things that Western
publishers won't allow. For example, lib.ru and [L] and other unofficial Russian e-libraries are tolerated
even though far from compliant with the law. These kinds of e-libraries could not survive at all in western
countries.13
Western publishers have been slow to join record, film, and software companies in their aggressive
online enforcement campaigns, and academic publishers even more so. But such efforts are slowly
increasing, as the market for digital texts grows and as publishers benefit from the enforcement
precedents set or won by the more aggressive rightsholder groups. The domain name of [os], one of the
sites mirroring the Aleph collection was seized, apparently due to the legal action taken by a US
rightholder, and it also started to respond to DMCA notices, removing links to books reported to be
infringing. Aleph responds to this with a number of tactical moves:
We want books to be available, but only for those who need them. We do not want [ALEPH] to be visible.
If one knows where to get books, there are here for him or her. In this way we stay relatively invisible (in
search engines, e.g.), but all the relevant communities in the academy know about us. Actually, if you
question people at universities, the percentage of them is quite low. But what's important is that the
news about [ALEPH] is spread mostly by face-to-face communication, where most of the unnecessary
people do not know about it. (Unnecessary are those who aim profit)14
The policy of invisibility is radically different from Moshkov’s policy of maximum visibility. Aleph hopes
that it can recede into the shadows where it will be protected by the omerta of academics sharing the
sharing ethos:
In Russian academia, [Aleph] is tacitly or actively supported. There are people that do not want to be
included, but it is hard to say who they are in most cases. Since there are DMCA complaints, of course
there are people who do not want stuff to appear here. But in our experience the complainers are only
from the non-scientific fellows. […] I haven't seen a single complaint from the authors who should
constitute our major problem: professors etc. No, they don't complain. Who complains are either of such
type I have mentioned or the ever-hungry publishers.15

13

Anonymous source #1
Anonymous source #1
15
Anonymous source #1
14

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The protection the academic community has to offer may not be enough to fend off the publishers’
enforcement actions. The option to recede further into the darknets and hide behind the veil of privacy
technologies is one option the Aleph site has: the first mirror on I2P, an anonymizing network designed
to hide the whereabouts and identity of web services is already operational. But
[i]f people are physically served court invitations, they will have to close the site. The idea is, however,
that the entire collection is copied throughout the world many times over, the database is open, the code
for the site is open, so other people can continue.16

On methodology
We tried to reconstruct the story behind Aleph by conducting interviews and browsing through the BBS
of the community. Access to the site and community members was given under a strict condition of
anonymity. We thus removed any reference to the names and URLs of the services in question.
At one point we shared an early draft of this paper with interested members and asked for their
feedback. Beyond access and feedback, community members were helping the writing of this article by
providing translations of some Russian originals, as well as reviewing the translations made by the
author. In return, we provided financial contributions to the community, in the value of 100 USD.
We reproduced forum entries without any edits to the language, we, however, edited interviews
conducted via IM services to reflect basic writing standards.

16

Anonymous source #1

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24


file sharing in Bodo 2015


Bodo
Libraries in the Post-Scarcity Era
2015


Libraries in the Post-Scarcity Era
Balazs Bodo

Abstract
In the digital era where, thanks to the ubiquity of electronic copies, the book is no longer a scarce
resource, libraries find themselves in an extremely competitive environment. Several different actors are
now in a position to provide low cost access to knowledge. One of these competitors are shadow libraries
- piratical text collections which have now amassed electronic copies of millions of copyrighted works
and provide access to them usually free of charge to anyone around the globe. While such shadow
libraries are far from being universal, they are able to offer certain services better, to more people and
under more favorable terms than most public or research libraries. This contribution offers insights into
the development and the inner workings of one of the biggest scientific shadow libraries on the internet in
order to understand what kind of library people create for themselves if they have the means and if they
don’t have to abide by the legal, bureaucratic and economic constraints that libraries usually face. I argue
that one of the many possible futures of the library is hidden in the shadows, and those who think of the
future of libraries can learn a lot from book pirates of the 21 st century about how users and readers expect
texts in electronic form to be stored, organized and circulated.
“The library is society’s last non-commercial meeting place which the majority of the population uses.”
(Committee on the Public Libraries in the Knowledge Society, 2010)
“With books ready to be shared, meticulously cataloged, everyone is a librarian. When everyone is
librarian, library is everywhere.” – Marcell Mars, www.memoryoftheworld.org
I have spent the last few months in various libraries visiting - a library. I spent countless hours in the
modest or grandiose buildings of the Harvard Libraries, the Boston and Cambridge Public Library
systems, various branches of the Openbare Bibliotheek in Amsterdam, the libraries of the University of
Amsterdam, with a computer in front of me, on which another library was running, a library which is
perfectly virtual, which has no monumental buildings, no multi-million euro budget, no miles of stacks,
no hundreds of staff, but which has, despite lacking all what apparently makes a library, millions of
literary works and millions of scientific books, all digitized, all available at the click of the mouse for
everyone on the earth without any charge, library or university membership. As I was sitting in these

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physical spaces where the past seemed to define the present, I was wondering where I should look to find
the library of the future: down to my screen or up around me.
The library on my screen was Aleph, one of the biggest of the countless piratical text collections on the
internet. It has more than a million scientific works and another million literary works to offer, all free to
download, without any charge or fee, for anyone on the net. I’ve spent months among its virtual stacks,
combing through the catalogue, talking to the librarians who maintain the collection, and watching the
library patrons as they used the collection. I kept going back to Aleph both as a user and as a researcher.
As a user, Aleph offered me books that the local libraries around me didn’t, in formats that were more
convenient than print. As a researcher, I was interested in the origins of Aleph, its modus operandi, its
future, and I was curious where the journey to which it has taken the book-readers, authors, publishers
and libraries would end.
In this short essay I will introduce some of the findings of a two year research project conducted on
Aleph. In the project I looked at several things. I reconstructed the pirate library’s genesis in order to
understand the forces that called it to life and shaped its development. I looked at its catalogue to
understand what it has to offer and how that piratical supply of books is related to the legal supply of
books through libraries and online distributors. I also acquired data on its usage, so was able to
reconstruct some aspects of piratical demand. After a short introduction, in the first part of this essay I
will outline some of the main findings, and in the second part will situate the findings in the wider context
of the future of libraries.

Book pirates and shadow librarians
Book piracy has a fascinating history, tightly woven into the history of the printing press (Judge, 1934),
into the history of censorship (Wittmann, 2004), into the history of copyright (Bently, Davis, & Ginsburg,
2010; Bodó, 2011a) and into the history of European civilization (Johns, 2010). Book piracy, in the 21st or
in the mid-17th century is an activity that has deep cultural significance, because ultimately it is a story
about how knowledge is circulated beyond and often against the structures of political and economic
power (Bodó, 2011b), and thus it is a story about the changes this unofficial circulation of knowledge
brings.
There are many different types of book pirates. Some just aim for easy money, others pursue highly
ideological goals, but they are invariably powerful harbingers of change. The emergence of black markets
whether they be of culture, of drugs or of arms is always a symptom, a warning sign of a friction between

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Bodó B. (2015): Libraries in the post-scarcity era.
in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creative values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property, Ashgate

supply and demand. Increased activity in the grey and black zones of legality marks the emergence of a
demand which legal suppliers are unwilling or unable to serve (Bodó, 2011a). That friction, more often
than not, leads to change. Earlier waves of book piracy foretold fundamental economic, political, societal
or technological shifts (Bodó, 2011b): changes in how the book publishing trade was organized (Judge,
1934; Pollard, 1916, 1920); the emergence of the new, bourgeois reading class (Patterson, 1968; Solly,
1885); the decline of pre-publication censorship (Rose, 1993); the advent of the Reformation and of the
Enlightenment (Darnton, 1982, 2003), or the rapid modernization of more than one nation (Khan &
Sokoloff, 2001; Khan, 2004; Yu, 2000).
The latest wave of piracy has coincided with the digital revolution which, in itself, profoundly upset the
economics of cultural production and distribution (Landes & Posner, 2003). However technology is not
the primary cause of the emergence of cultural black markets like Aleph. The proliferation of computers
and the internet has just revealed a more fundamental issue which all has to do with the uneven
distribution of the access to knowledge around the globe.
Sometimes book pirates do more than just forecast and react to changes that are independent of them.
Under certain conditions, they themselves can be powerful agents of change (Bodó, 2011b). Their agency
rests on their ability to challenge the status quo and resist cooptation or subjugation. In that effect, digital
pirates seem to be quite resilient (Giblin, 2011; Patry, 2009). They have the technological upper hand and
so far they have been able to outsmart any copyright enforcement effort (Bodó, forthcoming). As long as
it is not completely possible to eradicate file sharing technologies, and as long as there is a substantial
difference between what is legally available and what is in demand, cultural black markets will be here to
compete with and outcompete the established and recognized cultural intermediaries. Under this constant
existential threat, business models and institutions are forced to adapt, evolve or die.
After the music and audiovisual industries, now the book industry has to address the issue of piracy.
Piratical book distribution services are now in direct competition with the bookstore on the corner, the
used book stall on the sidewalk, they compete with the Amazons of the world and, like it or not, they
compete with libraries. There is, however, a significant difference between the book and the music
industries. The reluctance of music rights holders to listen to the demands of their customers caused little
damage beyond the markets of recorded music. Music rights holders controlled their own fates and those
who wanted to experiment with alternative forms of distribution had the chance to do so. But while the
rapid proliferation of book black markets may signal that the book industry suffers from similar problems
as the music industry suffered a decade ago, the actions of book publishers, the policies they pursue have
impact beyond the market of books and directly affect the domain of libraries.

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in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creative values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property, Ashgate

The fate of libraries is tied to the fate of book markets in more than one way. One connection is structural:
libraries emerged to remedy the scarcity in books. This is true both for the pre-print era as well as in the
Gutenberg galaxy. In the era of widespread literacy and highly developed book markets, libraries offer
access to books under terms publishers and booksellers cannot or would not. Libraries, to a large extent,
are defined to complement the structure of the book trade. The other connection is legal. The core
activities of the library (namely lending, copying) are governed by the same copyright laws that govern
authors and publishers. Libraries are one of the users in the copyright system, and their existence depends
on the limitations of and exceptions to the exclusive rights of the rights holders. The space that has been
carved out of copyright to enable the existence of libraries has been intensely contested in the era of
postmodern copyright (Samuelson, 2002) and digital technologies. This heavy legal and structural
interdependence with the market means that libraries have only a limited control over their own fate in the
digital domain.
Book pirates compete with some of the core services of libraries. And as is usually the case with
innovation that has no economic or legal constraints, pirate libraries offer, at least for the moment,
significantly better services than most of the libraries. Pirate libraries offer far more electronic books,
with much less restrictions and constraints, to far more people, far cheaper than anyone else in the library
domain. Libraries are thus directly affected by pirate libraries, and because of their structural
interdependence with book markets, they also have to adjust to how the commercial intermediaries react
to book piracy. Under such conditions libraries cannot simply count on their survival through their legacy.
Book piracy must be taken seriously, not just as a threat, but also as an opportunity to learn how shadow
libraries operate and interact with their users. Pirate libraries are the products of readers (and sometimes
authors), academics and laypeople, all sharing a deep passion for the book, operating in a zone where
there is little to no obstacle to the development of the “ideal” library. As such, pirate libraries can teach
important lessons on what is expected of a library, how book consumption habits evolve, and how
knowledge flows around the globe.

Pirate libraries in the digital age
The collection of texts in digital formats was one of the first activities that computers enabled: the text file
is the native medium of the computer, it is small, thus it is easy to store and copy. It is also very easy to
create, and as so many projects have since proved, there are more than enough volunteers who are willing
to type whole books into the machine. No wonder that electronic libraries and digital text repositories
were among the first “mainstream” application of computers. Combing through large stacks of matrix-

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printer printouts of sci-fi classics downloaded from gopher servers is a shared experience of anyone who
had access to computers and the internet before it was known as the World Wide Web.
Computers thus added fresh momentum to the efforts of realizing the age-old dream of the universal
library (Battles, 2004). Digital technologies offered a breakthrough in many of the issues that previously
posed serious obstacles to text collection: storage, search, preservation, access have all become cheaper
and easier than ever before. On the other hand, a number of key issues remained unresolved: digitization
was a slow and cumbersome process, while the screen proved to be too inconvenient, and the printer too
costly an interface between the text file and the reader. In any case, ultimately it wasn’t these issues that
put a break to the proliferation of digital libraries. Rather, it was the realization, that there are legal limits
to the digitization, storage, distribution of copyrighted works on the digital networks. That realization
soon rendered many text collections in the emerging digital library scene inaccessible.
Legal considerations did not destroy this chaotic, emergent digital librarianship and the collections the adhoc, accidental and professional librarians put together. The text collections were far too valuable to
simply delete them from the servers. Instead, what happened to most of these collections was that they
retreated from the public view, back into the access-controlled shadows of darknets. Yesterday’s gophers
and anonymous ftp servers turned into closed, membership only ftp servers, local shared libraries residing
on the intranets of various academic, business institutions and private archives stored on local hard drives.
The early digital libraries turned into book piracy sites and into the kernels of today’s shadow libraries.
Libraries and other major actors, who decided to start large scale digitization programs soon needed to
find out that if they wanted to avoid costly lawsuits, then they had to limit their activities to work in the
public domain. While the public domain is riddled with mind-bogglingly complex and unresolved legal
issues, but at least it is still significantly less complicated to deal with than copyrighted and orphan works.
Legally more innovative, (or as some would say, adventurous) companies, such as Google and Microsoft,
who thought they had sufficient resources to sort out the legal issues soon had to abandon their programs
or put them on hold until the legal issues were sorted out.
There were, however, a large group of disenfranchised readers, library patrons, authors and users who
decided to ignore the legal problems and set out to build the best library that could possibly be built using
the digital technologies. Despite the increased awareness of rights holders to the issue of digital book
piracy, more and more communities around text collections started defy the legal constraints and to
operate and use more or less public piratical shadow libraries.

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Bodó B. (2015): Libraries in the post-scarcity era.
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Aleph1
Aleph2 is a meta-library, and currently one of the biggest online piratical text collections on the internet.
The project started on a Russian bulletin board devoted to piracy in around 2008 as an effort to integrate
various free-floating text collections that circulated online, on optical media, on various public and private
ftp servers and on hard-drives. Its aim was to consolidate these separate text collections, many of which
were created in various Russian academic institutions, into a single, unified catalog, standardize the
technical aspects, add and correct missing or incorrect metadata, and offer the resulting catalogue,
computer code and the collection of files as an open infrastructure.

From Russia with love
It is by no means a mistake that Aleph was born in Russia. In post-Soviet Russia the unique constellation
of several different factors created the necessary conditions for the digital librarianship movement that
ultimately led to the development of Aleph. A rich literary legacy, the Soviet heritage, the pace with
which various copying technologies penetrated the market, the shortcomings of the legal environment and
the informal norms that stood in for the non-existent digital copyrights all contributed to the emergence of
the biggest piratical library in the history of mankind.
Russia cherishes a rich literary tradition, which suffered and endured extreme economic hardships and
political censorship during the Soviet period (Ermolaev, 1997; Friedberg, Watanabe, & Nakamoto, 1984;
Stelmakh, 2001). The political transformation in the early 1990’s liberated authors, publishers, librarians
and readers from much of the political oppression, but it did not solve the economic issues that stood in
the way of a healthy literary market. Disposable income was low, state subsidies were limited, the dire
economic situation created uncertainty in the book market. The previous decades, however, have taught
authors and readers how to overcome political and economic obstacles to access to books. During the
Soviet times authors, editors and readers operated clandestine samizdat distribution networks, while
informal book black markets, operating in semi-private spheres, made uncensored but hard to come by
books accessible (Stelmakh, 2001). This survivalist attitude and the skills that came with it became handy
in the post-Soviet turmoil, and were directly transferable to the then emerging digital technologies.

1

I have conducted extensive research on the origins of Aleph, on its catalogue and its users. The detailed findings, at
the time of writing this contribution are being prepared for publication. The following section is brief summary of
those findings and is based upon two forthcoming book chapters on Aleph in a report, edited by Joe Karaganis, on
the role of shadow libraries in the higher education systems of multiple countries.
2
Aleph is a pseudonym chosen to protect the identity of the shadow library in question.

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in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creative values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property, Ashgate

Russia is not the only country with a significant informal media economy of books, but in most other
places it was the photocopy machine that emerged to serve such book grey/black markets. In pre-1990
Russia and in other Eastern European countries the access to this technology was limited, and when
photocopiers finally became available, computers were close behind them in terms of accessibility. The
result of the parallel introduction of the photocopier and the computer was that the photocopy technology
did not have time to lock in the informal market of texts. In many countries where the photocopy machine
preceded the computer by decades, copy shops still capture the bulk of the informal production and
distribution of textbooks and other learning material. In the Soviet-bloc PCs instantly offered a less costly
and more adaptive technology to copy and distribute texts.
Russian academic and research institutions were the first to have access to computers. They also had to
somehow deal with the frustrating lack of access to up-to-date and affordable western works to be used in
education and research (Abramitzky & Sin, 2014). This may explain why the first batch of shadow
libraries started in a number of academic/research institutions such as the Department of Mechanics and
Mathematics (MexMat) at Moscow State University. The first digital librarians in Russia were
mathematicians, computer scientists and physicists, working in those institutions.
As PCs and internet access slowly penetrated Russian society, an extremely lively digital librarianship
movement emerged, mostly fuelled by enthusiastic readers, book fans and often authors, who spared no
effort to make their favorite books available on FIDOnet, a popular BBS system in Russia. One of the
central figures in these tumultuous years, when typed-in books appeared online by the thousands, was
Maxim Moshkov, a computer scientist, alumnus of the MexMat, and an avid collector of literary works.
His digital library, lib.ru was at first mostly a private collection of literary texts, but soon evolved into the
number one text repository which everyone used to depose the latest digital copy on a newly digitized
book (Мошков, 1999). Eventually the library grew so big that it had to be broken up. Today it only hosts
the Russian literary classics. User generated texts, fan fiction and amateur production was spin off into the
aptly named samizdat.lib.ru collection, low brow popular fiction, astrology and cheap romance found its
way into separate collections, and so did the collection of academic/scientific books, which started an
independent life under the name of Kolkhoz. Kolkhoz, which borrowed its name from the commons
based agricultural cooperative of the early Soviet era, was both a collection of scientific texts, and a
community of amateur librarians, who curated, managed and expanded the collection.
Moshkov and his library introduced several important norms into the bottom-up, decentralized, often
anarchic digital library movement that swept through the Russian internet in the late 1990’s, early 2000’s.
First, lib.ru provided the technological blueprint for any future digital library. But more importantly,

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Moshkov’s way of handling the texts, his way of responding to the claims, requests, questions, complaints
of authors and publishers paved the way to the development of copynorms (Schultz, 2007) that continue
to define the Russian digital library scene until today. Moshkov was instrumental in the creation of an
enabling environment for the digital librarianship while respecting the claims of authors, during times
when the formal copyright framework and the enforcement environment was both unable and unwilling to
protect works of authorship (Elst, 2005; Sezneva, 2012).

Guerilla Open Access
Around the time of the late 2000’s when Aleph started to merge the Kolkhoz collection with other, freefloating texts collections, two other notable events took place. It was in 2008 when Aaron Swartz penned
his Guerilla Open Access Manifesto (Swartz, 2008), in which he called for the liberation and sharing of
scientific knowledge. Swartz forcefully argued that scientific knowledge, the production of which is
mostly funded by the public and by the voluntary labor of academics, cannot be locked up behind
corporate paywalls set up by publishers. He framed the unauthorized copying and transfer of scientific
works from closed access text repositories to public archives as a moral act, and by doing so, he created
an ideological framework which was more radical and promised to be more effective than either the
creative commons (Lessig, 2004) or the open access (Suber, 2013) movements that tried to address the
access to knowledge issues in a more copyright friendly manner. During interviews, the administrators of
Aleph used the very same arguments to justify the raison d'être of their piratical library. While it seems
that Aleph is the practical realization of Swartz’s ideas, it is hard to tell which served as an inspiration for
the other.
It was also in around the same time when another piratical library, gigapedia/library.nu started its
operation, focusing mostly on making freely available English language scientific works (Liang, 2012).
Until its legal troubles and subsequent shutdown in 2012, gigapedia/library.nu was the biggest English
language piratical scientific library on the internet amassing several hundred thousand books, including
high-quality proofs ready to print and low resolution scans possibly prepared by a student or a lecturer.
During 2012 the mostly Russian-language and natural sciences focused Alephs absorbed the English
language, social sciences rich gigapedia/library.nu, and with the subsequent shutdown of
gigapedia/library.nu Aleph became the center of the scientific shadow library ecosystem and community.

Aleph by numbers

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Bodó B. (2015): Libraries in the post-scarcity era.
in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creative values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property, Ashgate

By adding pre-existing text collections to its catalogue Aleph was able to grow at an astonishing rate.
Aleph added, on average 17.500 books to its collection each month since 2009, and as a result, by April
2014 is has more than 1.15 million documents. Nearly two thirds of the collection is in English, one fifth
of the documents is in Russian, while German works amount to the third largest group with 8.5% of the
collection. The rest of the major European languages, like French or Spanish have less than 15000 works
each in the collection.
More than 50 thousand publishers have works in the library, but most of the collection is published by
mainstream western academic publishers. Springer published more than 12% of the works in the
collection, followed by the Cambridge University Press, Wiley, Routledge and Oxford University Press,
each having more than 9000 works in the collection.
Most of the collection is relatively recent, more than 70% of the collection being published in 1990 or
after. Despite the recentness of the collection, the electronic availability of the titles in the collection is
limited. While around 80% of the books that had an ISBN number registered in the catalogue3 was
available in print either as a new copy or a second hand one, only about one third of the titles were
available in e-book formats. The mean price of the titles still in print was 62 USD according to the data
gathered from Amazon.com.
The number of works accessed through of Aleph is as impressive as its catalogue. In the three months
between March and June, 2012, on average 24.000 documents were downloaded every day from one of
its half-a-dozen mirrors.4 This means that the number of documents downloaded daily from Aleph is
probably in the 50 to 100.000 range. The library users come from more than 150 different countries. The
biggest users in terms of volume were the Russian Federation, Indonesia, USA, India, Iran, Egypt, China,
Germany and the UK. Meanwhile, many of the highest per-capita users are Central and Eastern European
countries.

What Aleph is and what it is not
Aleph is an example of the library in the post scarcity age. It is founded on the idea that books should no
longer be a scarce resource. Aleph set out to remove both sources of scarcity: the natural source of
3

Market availability data is only available for that 40% of books in the Aleph catalogue that had an ISBN number
on file. The titles without a valid ISBN number tend to be older, Russian language titles, in general with low
expected print and e-book availability.
4
Download data is based on the logs provided by one of the shadow library services which offers the books in
Aleph’s catalogue as well as other works also free and without any restraints or limitations.

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in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creative values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property, Ashgate

scarcity in physical copies is overcome through distributed digitization; the artificial source of scarcity
created by copyright protection is overcome through infringement. The liberation from both constraints is
necessary to create a truly scarcity free environment and to release the potential of the library in the postscarcity age.
Aleph is also an ongoing demonstration of the fact that under the condition of non-scarcity, the library can
be a decentralized, distributed, commons-based institution created and maintained through peer
production (Benkler, 2006). The message of Aleph is clear: users left to their own devices, can produce a
library by themselves for themselves. In fact, users are the library. And when everyone has the means to
digitize, collect, catalogue and share his/her own library, then the library suddenly is everywhere. Small
individual and institutional collections are aggregated into Aleph, which, in turn is constantly fragmented
into smaller, local, individual collections as users download works from the collection. The library is
breathing (Battles, 2004) books in and out, but for the first time, this circulation of books is not a zero
sum game, but a cumulative one: with every cycle the collection grows.
On the other hand Aleph may have lots of books on offer, but it is clear that it is neither universal in its
scope, nor does it fulfill all the critical functions of a library. Most importantly Aleph is disembedded
from the local contexts and communities that usually define the focus of the library. While it relies on the
availability of local digital collections for its growth, it has no means to play an active role in its own
development. The guardians of Aleph can prevent books from entering the collection, but they cannot
pay, ask or force anyone to provide a title if it is missing. Aleph is reliant on the weak copy-protection
technologies of official e-text repositories and the goodwill of individual document submitters when it
comes to the expansion of the collection. This means that the Aleph collection is both fragmented and
biased, and it lacks the necessary safeguards to ensure that it stays either current or relevant.
Aleph, with all its strengths and weaknesses carries an important lesson for the discussions on the future
of libraries. In the next section I’ll try situate these lessons in the wider context of the library in the post
scarcity age.

The future of the library
There is hardly a week without a blog post, a conference, a workshop or an academic paper discussing the
future of libraries. While existing libraries are buzzing with activity, librarians are well aware that they
need to re-define themselves and their institutions, as the book collections around which libraries were
organized slowly go the way the catalogue has gone: into the digital realm. It would be impossible to give

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Bodó B. (2015): Libraries in the post-scarcity era.
in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creative values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property, Ashgate

a faithful summary of all the discussions on the future of libraries is such a short contribution. There are,
however, a few threads, to which the story of Aleph may contribute.

Competition
It is very rare to find the two words: libraries and competition in the same sentence. No wonder: libraries
enjoyed a near perfect monopoly in their field of activity. Though there may have been many different
local initiatives that provided free access to books, as a specialized institution to do so, the library was
unmatched and unchallenged. This monopoly position has been lost in a remarkably short period of time
due to the internet and the rapid innovations in the legal e-book distribution markets. Textbooks can be
rented, e-books can be lent, a number of new startups and major sellers offer flat rate access to huge
collections. Expertise that helps navigate the domains of knowledge is abundant, there are multiple
authoritative sources of information and meta-information online. The search box of the library catalog is
only one, and not even the most usable of all the different search boxes one can type a query in5.
Meanwhile there are plenty of physical spaces which offer good coffee, an AC plug, comfortable chairs
and low levels of noise to meet, read and study from local cafes via hacker- and maker spaces, to coworking offices. Many library competitors have access to resources (human, financial, technological and
legal) way beyond the possibilities of even the richest libraries. In addition, publishers control the
copyrights in digital copies which, absent of well fortified statutory limitations and exceptions, prevent
libraries keeping up with the changes in user habits and with the competing commercial services.
Libraries definitely feel the pressure. “Libraries’ offers of materials […] compete with many other offers
that aim to attract the attention of the public. […] It is no longer enough just to make a good collection
available to the public.” (Committee on the Public Libraries in the Knowledge Society, 2010) As a
response, libraries have developed different strategies to cope with this challenge. The common thread in
the various strategy documents is that they try to redefine the library as a node in the vast network of
institutions that provide knowledge, enable learning, facilitate cooperation and initiate dialogues. Some of
the strategic plans redefine the library space as an “independent medium to be developed” (Committee on
the Public Libraries in the Knowledge Society, 2010), and advise libraries to transform themselves into
culture and community centers which establish partnerships with citizens, communities and with other
public and private institutions. Some librarians propose even more radical ways of keeping the library

5

ArXiv, SSRN, RePEc, PubMed Central, Google Scholar, Google Books, Amazon, Mendeley, Citavi,
ResearchGate, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Wikipedia, Yahoo Answers, Khan Academy, specialized twitter and other
social media accounts are just a few of the available discovery services.

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in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creative values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property, Ashgate

relevant by, for example, advocating more opening hours without staff and hosting more user-governed
activities.
In the research library sphere, the Commission on the Future of the Library, a task force set up by the
University of California Berkeley defined the values the university research library will add in the digital
age as “1) Human expertise; 2) Enabling infrastructure; and 3) Preservation and dissemination of
knowledge for future generations.” (Commission on the Future of the Library, 2013). This approach is
from among the more conservative ones, still relying on the hope that libraries can offer something
unique that no one else is able to provide. Others, working at the Association of Research Libraries are
more like their public library counterparts, defining the future role of the research libraries as a “convener
of ‘conversations’ for knowledge construction, an inspiring host; a boundless symposium; an incubator;
a 3rd space both physically and virtually; a scaffold for independence of mind; and a sanctuary for
freedom of expression, a global entrepreneurial engine” (Pendleton-Jullian, Lougee, Wilkin, & Hilton,
2014), in other words, as another important, but in no way unique node in the wider network of
institutions that creates and distributes knowledge.
Despite the differences in priorities, all these recommendations carry the same basic message. The unique
position of libraries in the center of a book-based knowledge economy, on the top of the paper-bound
knowledge hierarchy is about to be lost. As libraries are losing their monopoly of giving low cost, low
restrictions access to books which are scarce by nature, and they are losing their privileged and powerful
position as the guardians of and guides to the knowledge stored in the stacks. If they want to survive, they
need to find their role and position in a network of institutions, where everyone else is engaged in
activities that overlap with the historic functions of the library. Just like the books themselves, the power
that came from the privileged access to books is in part dispersed among the countless nodes in the
knowledge and learning networks, and in part is being captured by those who control the digital rights to
digitize and distribute books in the digital era.
One of the main reasons why libraries are trying to redefine themselves as providers of ancillary services
is because the lack of digital lending rights prevents them from competing on their own traditional home
turf - in giving free access to knowledge. The traditional legal limitations and exceptions to copyright that
enabled libraries to fulfill their role in the analogue world do not apply in the digital realm. In the
European Union, the Infosoc Directive (“Directive 2001/29/EC on the harmonisation of certain aspects of
copyright and related rights in the information society,” 2001) allows for libraries to create digital copies
for preservation, indexing and similar purposes and allows for the display of digital copies on their
premises for research and personal study (Triaille et al., 2013). While in theory these rights provide for

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in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creative values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property, Ashgate

the core library services in the digital domain, their practical usefulness is rather limited, as off-premises
e-lending of copyrighted works is in most cases6 only possible through individual license agreements with
publishers.
Under such circumstances libraries complain that they cannot fulfill their public interest mission in the
digital era. What libraries are allowed to do under their own under current limitations and exceptions, is
seen as inadequate for what is expected of them. But to do more requires the appropriate e-lending
licenses from rights holders. In many cases, however, libraries simply cannot license digitally for e-lending. In those cases when licensing is possible, they see transaction costs as prohibitively high; they
feel that their bargaining positions vis-à-vis rightholders is unbalanced; they do not see that the license
terms are adapted to libraries’ policies, and they fear that the licenses provide publishers excessive and
undue influence over libraries (Report on the responses to the Public Consultation on the Review of the
EU Copyright Rules, 2013).
What is more, libraries face substantial legal uncertainties even where there are more-or-less well defined
digital library exceptions. In the EU, questions such as whether the analogue lending rights of libraries
extend to e-books, whether an exhaustion of the distribution right is necessary to enjoy the lending
exception, and whether licensing an e-book would exhaust the distribution right are under consideration
by the Court of Justice of the European Union in a Dutch case (Rosati, 2014b). And while in another case
(Case C-117/13 Technische Universität Darmstadt v Eugen Ulmer KG) the CJEU reaffirmed the rights of
European libraries to digitize books in their collection if that is necessary to give access to them in digital
formats on their premises, it also created new uncertainties by stating that libraries may not digitize their
entire collections (Rosati, 2014a).
US libraries face a similar situation, both in terms of the narrowly defined exceptions in which libraries
can operate, and the huge uncertainty regarding the limits of fair use in the digital library context. US
rights holders challenged both Google’s (Authors Guild v Google) and the libraries (Authors Guild v
HathiTrust) rights to digitize copyrighted works. While there seems to be a consensus of courts that the
mass digitization conducted by these institutions was fair use (Diaz, 2013; Rosati, 2014c; Samuelson,
2014), the accessibility of the scanned works is still heavily limited, subject to licenses from publishers,
the existence of print copies at the library and the institutional membership held by prospective readers.
While in the highly competitive US e-book market many commercial intermediaries offer e-lending
6

The notable exception being orphan works which are presumed to be still copyrighted, but without an identifiable
rights owner. In the EU, the Directive 2012/28/EU on certain permitted uses of orphan works in theory eases access
to such works, but in practice its practical impact is limited by the many constraints among its provisions. Lacking
any orphan works legislation and the Google Book Settlement still in limbo, the US is even farther from making
orphan works generally accessible to the public.

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in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creative values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property, Ashgate

licenses to e-book catalogues of various sizes, these arrangements also carry the danger of a commercial
lock-in of the access to digital works, and render libraries dependent upon the services of commercial
providers who may or may not be the best defenders of public interest (OECD, 2012).
Shadow libraries like Aleph are called into existence by the vacuum that was left behind by the collapse
of libraries in the digital sphere and by the inability of the commercial arrangements to provide adequate
substitute services. Shadow libraries are pooling distributed resources and expertise over the internet, and
use the lack of legal or technological barriers to innovation in the informal sphere to fill in the void left
behind by libraries.

What can Aleph teach us about the future of libraries?
The story of Aleph offers two, closely interrelated considerations for the debate on the future of libraries:
a legal and an organizational one. Aleph operates beyond the limits of legality, as almost all of its
activities are copyright infringing, including the unauthorized digitization of books, the unauthorized
mass downloads from e-text repositories, the unauthorized acts of uploading books to the archive, the
unauthorized distribution of books, and, in most countries, the unauthorized act of users’ downloading
books from the archive. In the debates around copyright infringement, illegality is usually interpreted as a
necessary condition to access works for free. While this is undoubtedly true, the fact that Aleph provides
no-cost access to books seems to be less important than the fact that it provides an access to them in the
first place.
Aleph is a clear indicator of the volume of the demand for current books in digital formats in developed
and in developing countries. The legal digital availability, or rather, unavailability of its catalogue also
demonstrates the limits of the current commercial and library based arrangements that aim to provide low
cost access to books over the internet. As mentioned earlier, Aleph’s catalogue is mostly of recent books,
meaning that 80% of the titles with a valid ISBN number are still in print and available as a new or used
print copy through commercial retailers. What is also clear, that around 66% of these books are yet to be
made available in electronic format. While publishers in theory have a strong incentive to make their most
recent titles available as e-books, they lag behind in doing so.
This might explain why one third of all the e-book downloads in Aleph are from highly developed
Western countries, and two third of these downloads are of books without a kindle version. Having access
to print copies either through libraries or through commercial retailers is simply not enough anymore.
Developing countries are a slightly different case. There, compared to developed countries, twice as many

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in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creative values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property, Ashgate

of the downloads (17% compared to 8% in developed countries) are of titles that aren’t available in print
at all. Not having access to books in print seems to be a more pressing problem for developing countries
than not having access to electronic copies. Aleph thus fulfills at least two distinct types of demand: in
developed countries it provides access to missing electronic versions, in developing countries it provides
access to missing print copies.
The ability to fulfill an otherwise unfulfilled demand is not the only function of illegality. Copyright
infringement in the case of Aleph has a much more important role: it enables the peer production of the
library. Aleph is an open source library. This means that every resource it uses and every resource it
creates is freely accessible to anyone for use without any further restrictions. This includes the server
code, the database, the catalogue and the collection. The open source nature of Aleph rests on the
ideological claim that the scientific knowledge produced by humanity, mostly through public funds
should be open for anyone to access without any restrictions. Everything else in and around Aleph stems
from this claim, as they replicate the open access logic in all the other aspects of Aleph’s operation. Aleph
uses the peer produced Open Library to fetch book metadata, it uses the bittorrent and ed2k P2P networks
to store and make books accessible, it uses Linux and MySQL to run its code, and it allows its users to
upload books and edit book metadata. As a consequence of its open source nature, anyone can contribute
to the project, and everyone can enjoy its benefits.
It is hard to quantify the impact of this piratical open access library on education, science and research in
various local contexts where Aleph is the prime source of otherwise inaccessible books. But it is
relatively easy to measure the consequences of openness at the level of the Aleph, the library. The
collection of Aleph was created mostly by those individuals and communities who decided to digitize
books by themselves for their own use. While any single individual is only capable of digitizing a few
books at the maximum, the small contributions quickly add up. To digitize the 1.15 million documents in
the Aleph collection would require an investment of several hundred million Euros, and a substantial
subsequent investment in storage, collection management and access provision (Poole, 2010). Compared
to these figures the costs associated with running Aleph is infinitesimal, as it survives on the volunteer
labor of a few individuals, and annual donations in the total value of a few thousand dollars. The hundreds
of thousands who use Aleph on a more or less regular basis have an immense amount of resources, and by
disregarding the copyright laws Aleph is able to tap into those resources and use them for the
development of the library. The value of these resources and of the peer produced library is the difference
between the actual costs associated with Aleph, and the investment that would be required to create
something remotely similar.

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in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creative values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property, Ashgate

The decentralized, collaborative mass digitization and making available of current, thus most relevant
scientific works is only possible at the moment through massive copyright infringement. It is debatable
whether the copyrighted corpus of scientific works should be completely open, and whether the blatant
disregard of copyrights through which Aleph achieved this openness is the right path towards a more
openly accessible body of scientific knowledge. It is also yet to be measured what effects shadow libraries
may have on the commercial intermediaries and on the health of scientific publishing and science in
general. But Aleph, in any case, is a case study in the potential benefits of open sourcing the library.

Conclusion
If we can take Aleph as an expression of what users around the globe want from a library, then the answer
is that there is a strong need for a universally accessible collection of current, relevant (scientific) books
in restrictions-free electronic formats. Can we expect any single library to provide anything even remotely
similar to that in the foreseeable future? Does such a service have a place in the future of libraries? It is as
hard to imagine the future library with such a service as without.
While the legal and financial obstacles to the creation of a scientific library with as universal reach as
Aleph may be difficult the overcome, other aspects of it may be more easily replicable. The way Aleph
operates demonstrates the amount of material and immaterial resources users are willing to contribute to
build a library that responds to their needs and expectations. If libraries plan to only ‘host’ user-governed
activities, it means that the library is still imagined to be a separate entity from its users. Aleph teaches us
that this separation can be overcome and users can constitute a library. But for that they need
opportunities to participate in the production of the library: they need the right to digitize books and copy
digital books to and from the library, they need the opportunity to participate in the cataloging and
collection building process, they need the opportunity to curate and program the collection. In other
words users need the chance to be librarians in the library if they wish to do so, and so libraries need to be
able to provide access not just to the collection but to their core functions as well. The walls that separate
librarians from library patrons, private and public collections, insiders and outsiders can all prevent the
peer production of the library, and through that, prevent the future that is the closest to what library users
think of as ideal.

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from

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=245548
Мошков, М. (1999). Что вы все о копирайте. Лучше бы книжку почитали (Библиотеке копирайт не
враг). Компьютерры, (300).

19



file sharing in Custodians 2015


Custodians
In solidarity with Library Genesis and Sci-Hub
2015


:::::::::::::::::: contact:
[little.prince@custodians.online](mailto:little.prince@custodians.online)

# In solidarity with [Library Genesis](http://libgen.io) and [Sci-Hub](http
://sci-hub.io)

In Antoine de Saint Exupéry's tale the Little Prince meets a businessman who
accumulates stars with the sole purpose of being able to buy more stars. The
Little Prince is perplexed. He owns only a flower, which he waters every day.
Three volcanoes, which he cleans every week. "It is of some use to my
volcanoes, and it is of some use to my flower, that I own them," he says, "but
you are of no use to the stars that you own".

There are many businessmen who own knowledge today. Consider Elsevier, the
largest scholarly publisher, whose 37% profit margin1 stands in sharp contrast
to the rising fees, expanding student loan debt and poverty-level wages for
adjunct faculty. Elsevier owns some of the largest databases of academic
material, which are licensed at prices so scandalously high that even Harvard,
the richest university of the global north, has complained that it cannot
afford them any longer. Robert Darnton, the past director of Harvard Library,
says "We faculty do the research, write the papers, referee papers by other
researchers, serve on editorial boards, all of it for free … and then we buy
back the results of our labour at outrageous prices."2 For all the work
supported by public money benefiting scholarly publishers, particularly the
peer review that grounds their legitimacy, journal articles are priced such
that they prohibit access to science to many academics - and all non-academics
- across the world, and render it a token of privilege.3

Elsevier has recently filed a copyright infringement suit in New York against
Science Hub and Library Genesis claiming millions of dollars in damages.4 This
has come as a big blow, not just to the administrators of the websites but
also to thousands of researchers around the world for whom these sites are the
only viable source of academic materials. The social media, mailing lists and
IRC channels have been filled with their distress messages, desperately
seeking articles and publications.

Even as the New York District Court was delivering its injunction, news came
of the entire editorial board of highly-esteemed journal Lingua handing in
their collective resignation, citing as their reason the refusal by Elsevier
to go open access and give up on the high fees it charges to authors and their
academic institutions. As we write these lines, a petition is doing the rounds
demanding that Taylor & Francis doesn't shut down Ashgate5, a formerly
independent humanities publisher that it acquired earlier in 2015. It is
threatened to go the way of other small publishers that are being rolled over
by the growing monopoly and concentration in the publishing market. These are
just some of the signs that the system is broken. It devalues us, authors,
editors and readers alike. It parasites on our labor, it thwarts our service
to the public, it denies us access6.

We have the means and methods to make knowledge accessible to everyone, with
no economic barrier to access and at a much lower cost to society. But closed
access’s monopoly over academic publishing, its spectacular profits and its
central role in the allocation of academic prestige trump the public interest.
Commercial publishers effectively impede open access, criminalize us,
prosecute our heroes and heroines, and destroy our libraries, again and again.
Before Science Hub and Library Genesis there was Library.nu or Gigapedia;
before Gigapedia there was textz.com; before textz.com there was little; and
before there was little there was nothing. That's what they want: to reduce
most of us back to nothing. And they have the full support of the courts and
law to do exactly that.7

In Elsevier's case against Sci-Hub and Library Genesis, the judge said:
"simply making copyrighted content available for free via a foreign website,
disserves the public interest"8. Alexandra Elbakyan's original plea put the
stakes much higher: "If Elsevier manages to shut down our projects or force
them into the darknet, that will demonstrate an important idea: that the
public does not have the right to knowledge."

We demonstrate daily, and on a massive scale, that the system is broken. We
share our writing secretly behind the backs of our publishers, circumvent
paywalls to access articles and publications, digitize and upload books to
libraries. This is the other side of 37% profit margins: our knowledge commons
grows in the fault lines of a broken system. We are all custodians of
knowledge, custodians of the same infrastructures that we depend on for
producing knowledge, custodians of our fertile but fragile commons. To be a
custodian is, de facto, to download, to share, to read, to write, to review,
to edit, to digitize, to archive, to maintain libraries, to make them
accessible. It is to be of use to, not to make property of, our knowledge
commons.

More than seven years ago Aaron Swartz, who spared no risk in standing up for
what we here urge you to stand up for too, wrote: "We need to take
information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the
world. We need to take stuff that's out of copyright and add it to the
archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to
download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need
to fight for Guerilla Open Access. With enough of us, around the world, we'll
not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we'll
make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?"9

We find ourselves at a decisive moment. This is the time to recognize that the
very existence of our massive knowledge commons is an act of collective civil
disobedience. It is the time to emerge from hiding and put our names behind
this act of resistance. You may feel isolated, but there are many of us. The
anger, desperation and fear of losing our library infrastructures, voiced
across the internet, tell us that. This is the time for us custodians, being
dogs, humans or cyborgs, with our names, nicknames and pseudonyms, to raise
our voices.

Share this letter - read it in public - leave it in the printer. Share your
writing - digitize a book - upload your files. Don't let our knowledge be
crushed. Care for the libraries - care for the metadata - care for the backup.
Water the flowers - clean the volcanoes.

30 November 2015

Dusan Barok, Josephine Berry, Bodo Balazs, Sean Dockray, Kenneth Goldsmith,
Anthony Iles, Lawrence Liang, Sebastian Luetgert, Pauline van Mourik Broekman,
Marcell Mars, spideralex, Tomislav Medak, Dubravka Sekulic, Femke Snelting...

* * *

1. Lariviere, Vincent, Stefanie Haustein, and Philippe Mongeon. “[The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era.](http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0127502)” PLoS ONE 10, no. 6 (June 10, 2015): e0127502. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0127502.,
“[The Obscene Profits of Commercial Scholarly
Publishers.](http://svpow.com/2012/01/13/the-obscene-profits-of-commercial-
scholarly-publishers/)” svpow.com. Accessed November 30, 2015.  ↩

2. Sample, Ian. “[Harvard University Says It Can’t Afford Journal Publishers’ Prices.](http://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/apr/24/harvard-university-journal-publishers-prices)” The Guardian, April 24, 2012, sec. Science. theguardian.com.  ↩
3. “[Academic Paywalls Mean Publish and Perish - Al Jazeera English.](http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/10/20121017558785551.html)” Accessed November 30, 2015. aljazeera.com.  ↩
4. “[Sci-Hub Tears Down Academia’s ‘Illegal’ Copyright Paywalls.](https://torrentfreak.com/sci-hub-tears-down-academias-illegal-copyright-paywalls-150627/)” TorrentFreak. Accessed November 30, 2015. torrentfreak.com.  ↩
5. “[Save Ashgate Publishing.](https://www.change.org/p/save-ashgate-publishing)” Change.org. Accessed November 30, 2015. change.org.  ↩
6. “[The Cost of Knowledge.](http://thecostofknowledge.com/)” Accessed November 30, 2015. thecostofknowledge.com.  ↩
7. In fact, with the TPP and TTIP being rushed through the legislative process, no domain registrar, ISP provider, host or human rights organization will be able to prevent copyright industries and courts from criminalizing and shutting down websites "expeditiously".  ↩
8. “[Court Orders Shutdown of Libgen, Bookfi and Sci-Hub.](https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-shutdown-of-libgen-bookfi-and-sci-hub-151102/)” TorrentFreak. Accessed November 30, 2015. torrentfreak.com.  ↩
9. “[Guerilla Open Access Manifesto.](https://archive.org/stream/GuerillaOpenAccessManifesto/Goamjuly2008_djvu.txt)” Internet Archive. Accessed November 30, 2015. archive.org.  ↩


file sharing in Dockray 2013


Dockray
Interface Access Loss
2013


Interface Access Loss

I want to begin this talk at the end -- by which I mean the end of property - at least according to
the cyber-utopian account of things, where digital file sharing and online communication liberate
culture from corporations and their drive for profit. This is just one of the promised forms of
emancipation -- property, in a sense, was undone. People, on a massive scale, used their
computers and their internet connections to share digitized versions of their objects with each
other, quickly producing a different, common form of ownership. The crisis that this provoked is
well-known -- it could be described in one word: Napster. What is less recognized - because it is
still very much in process - is the subsequent undoing of property, of both the private and common
kind. What follows is one story of "the cloud" -- the post-dot-com bubble techno-super-entity -which sucks up property, labor, and free time.

Object, Interface

It's debated whether the growing automation of production leads to global structural
unemployment or not -- Karl Marx wrote that "the self-expansion of capital by means of machinery
is thenceforward directly proportional to the number of the workpeople, whose means of
livelihood have been destroyed by that machinery" - but the promise is, of course, that when
robots do the work, we humans are free to be creative. Karl Kautsky predicted that increasing
automation would actually lead, not to a mass surplus population or widespread creativity, but
something much more mundane: the growth of clerks and bookkeepers, and the expansion of
unproductive sectors like "the banking system, the credit system, insurance empires and
advertising."

Marx was analyzing the number of people employed by some of the new industries in the middle
of the 19th century: "gas-works, telegraphy, photography, steam navigation, and railways." The
facts were that these industries were incredibly important, expansive and growing, highly
mechanized.. and employed a very small number of people. It is difficult not to read his study of
these technologies of connection and communication - against the background of our present
moment, in which the rise of the Internet has been accompanied by the deindustrialization of
cities, increased migrant and mobile labor, and jobs made obsolete by computation.

There are obvious examples of the impact of computation on the workplace: at factories and
distribution centers, robots engineered with computer-vision can replace a handful of workers,
with a savings of millions of dollars per robot over the life of the system. And there are less
apparent examples as well, like algorithms determining when and where to hire people and for
how long, according to fluctuating conditions.
Both examples have parallels within computer programming, namely reuse and garbage
collection. Code reuse refers to the practice of writing software in such a way that the code can be
used again later, in another program, to perform the same task. It is considered wasteful to give the
same time, attention, and energy to a function, because the development environment is not an
assembly line - a programmer shouldn't repeat. Such repetition then gives way to copy-andpasting (or merely calling). The analogy here is to the robot, to the replacement of human labor
with technology.

Now, when a program is in the midst of being executed, the computer's memory fills with data -but some of that is obsolete, no longer necessary for that program to run. If left alone, the memory
would become clogged, the program would crash, the computer might crash. It is the role of the
garbage collector to free up memory, deleting what is no longer in use. And here, I'm making the
analogy with flexible labor, workers being made redundant, and so on.

In Object-Oriented Programming, a programmer designs the software that she is writing around
“objects,” where each object is conceptually divided into “public” and “private” parts. The public
parts are accessible to other objects, but the private ones are hidden to the world outside the
boundaries of that object. It's a “black box” - a thing that can be known through its inputs and
outputs - even in total ignorance of its internal mechanisms. What difference does it make if the
code is written in one way versus an other .. if it behaves the same? As William James wrote, “If no
practical difference whatever can be traced, then the alternatives mean practically the same thing,
and all dispute is idle.”

By merely having a public interface, an object is already a social entity. It makes no sense to even
provide access to the outside if there are no potential objects with which to interact! So to

understand the object-oriented program, we must scale up - not by increasing the size or
complexity of the object, but instead by increasing the number and types of objects such that their
relations become more dense. The result is an intricate machine with an on and an off state, rather
than a beginning and an end. Its parts are interchangeable -- provided that they reliably produce
the same behavior, the same inputs and outputs. Furthermore, this machine can be modified:
objects can be added and removed, changing but not destroying the machine; and it might be,
using Gerald Raunig’s appropriate term, “concatenated” with other machines.

Inevitably, this paradigm for describing the relationship between software objects spread outwards,
subsuming more of the universe outside of the immediate code. External programs, powerful
computers, banking institutions, people, and satellites have all been “encapsulated” and
“abstracted” into objects with inputs and outputs. Is this a conceptual reduction of the richness
and complexity of reality? Yes, but only partially. It is also a real description of how people,
institutions, software, and things are being brought into relationship with one another according to
the demands of networked computation.. and the expanding field of objects are exactly those
entities integrated into such a network.

Consider a simple example of decentralized file-sharing: its diagram might represent an objectoriented piece of software, but here each object is a person-computer, shown in potential relation
to every other person-computer. Files might be sent or received at any point in this machine,
which seems particularly oriented towards circulation and movement. Much remains private, but a
collection of files from every person is made public and opened up to the network. Taken as a
whole, the entire collection of all files - which on the one hand exceeds the storage capacity of
any one person’s technical hardware, is on the other hand entirely available to every personcomputer. If the files were books.. then this collective collection would be a public library.

In order for a system like this to work, for the inputs and the outputs to actually engage with one
another to produce action or transmit data, there needs to be something in place already to enable
meaningful couplings. Before there is any interaction or any relationship, there must be some
common ground in place that allows heterogenous objects to ‘talk to each other’ (to use a phrase
from the business casual language of the Californian Ideology). The term used for such a common
ground - especially on the Internet - is platform, a word for that which enables and anticipates

future action without directly producing it. A platform provides tools and resources to the objects
that run “on top” of the platform so that those objects don't need to have their own tools and
resources. In this sense, the platform offers itself as a way for objects to externalize (and reuse)
labor. Communication between objects is one of the most significant actions that a platform can
provide, but it requires that the objects conform some amount of their inputs and outputs to the
specifications dictated by the platform.

But haven’t I only introduced another coupling, instead of between two objects, this time between
the object and the platform? What I'm talking about with "couplings" is the meeting point between
things - in other words, an “interface.” In the terms of OOP, the interface is an abstraction that
defines what kinds of interaction are possible with an object. It maps out the public face of the
object in a way that is legible and accessible to other objects. Similarly, computer interfaces like
screens and keyboards are designed to meet with human interfaces like fingers and eyes, allowing
for a specific form of interaction between person and machine. Any coupling between objects
passes through some interface and every interface obscures as much as it reveals - it establishes
the boundary between what is public and what is private, what is visible and what is not. The
dominant aesthetic values of user interface design actually privilege such concealment as “good
design,” appealing to principles of simplicity, cleanliness, and clarity.
Cloud, Access

One practical outcome of this has been that there can be tectonic shifts behind the interface where entire systems are restructured or revolutionized - without any interruption, as long as the
interface itself remains essentially unchanged. In Pragmatism’s terms, a successful interface keeps
any difference (in back) from making a difference (in front). Using books again as an example: for
consumers to become accustomed to the initial discomfort of purchasing a product online instead
of from a shop, the interface needs to make it so that “buying a book” is something that could be
interchangeably accomplished either by a traditional bookstore or the online "marketplace"
equivalent. But behind the interface is Amazon, which through low prices and wide selection is
the most visible platform for buying books and uses that position to push retailers and publishers
both to, at best, the bare minimum of profitability.

In addition to selling things to people and collecting data about its users (what they look at and
what they buy) to personalize product recommendations, Amazon has also made an effort to be a
platform for the technical and logistical parts of other retailers. Ultimately collecting data from
them as well, Amazon realizes a competitive advantage from having a comprehensive, up-to-theminute perspective on market trends and inventories. This volume of data is so vast and valuable
that warehouses packed with computers are constructed to store it, protect it, and make it readily
available to algorithms. Data centers, such as these, organize how commodities circulate (they run
business applications, store data about retail, manage fulfillment) but also - increasingly - they
hold the commodity itself - for example, the book. Digital book sales started the millennium very
slowly but by 2010 had overtaken hardcover sales.

Amazon’s store of digital books (or Apple’s or Google’s, for that matter) is a distorted reflection of
the collection circulating within the file-sharing network, displaced from personal computers to
corporate data centers. Here are two regimes of digital property: the swarm and the cloud. For
swarms (a reference to swarm downloading where a single file can be downloaded in parallel
from multiple sources) property is held in common between peers -- however, property is
positioned out of reach, on the cloud, accessible only through an interface that has absorbed legal
and business requirements.

It's just half of the story, however, to associate the cloud with mammoth data centers; the other
half is to be found in our hands and laps. Thin computing, including tablets and e-readers, iPads
and Kindles, and mobile phones have co-evolved with data centers, offering powerful, lightweight
computing precisely because so much processing and storage has been externalized.

In this technical configuration of the cloud, the thin computer and the fat data center meet through
an interface, inevitably clean and simple, that manages access to the remote resources. Typically,
a person needs to agree to certain “terms of service,” have a unique, measurable account, and
provide payment information; in return, access is granted. This access is not ownership in the
conventional sense of a book, or even the digital sense of a file, but rather a license that gives the
person a “non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy… solely for your personal and noncommercial use,” contradicting the First Sale Doctrine, which gives the “owner” the right to sell,
lease, or rent their copy to anyone they choose at any price they choose. The doctrine,

established within America's legal system in 1908, separated the rights of reproduction, from
distribution, as a way to "exhaust" the copyright holder's control over the commodities that people
purchased.. legitimizing institutions like used book stores and public libraries. Computer software
famously attempted to bypass the First Sale Doctrine with its "shrink wrap" licenses that restricted
the rights of the buyer once she broke through the plastic packaging to open the product. This
practice has only evolved and become ubiquitous over the last three decades as software began
being distributed digitally through networks rather than as physical objects in stores. Such
contradictions are symptoms of the shift in property regimes, or what Jeremy Rifkin called “the age
of access.” He writes that “property continues to exist but is far less likely to be exchanged in
markets. Instead, suppliers hold on to property in the new economy and lease, rent, or charge an
admission fee, subscription, or membership dues for its short-term use.”

Thinking again of books, Rifkin’s description gives the image of a paid library emerging as the
synthesis of the public library and the marketplace for commodity exchange. Considering how, on
the one side, traditional public libraries are having their collections deaccessioned, hours of
operation cut, and are in some cases being closed down entirely, and on the other side, the
traditional publishing industry finds its stores, books, and profits dematerialized, the image is
perhaps appropriate. Server racks, in photographs inside data centers, strike an eerie resemblance
to library stacks - - while e-readers are consciously designed to look and feel something like a
book. Yet, when one peers down into the screen of the device, one sees both the book - and the
library.

Like a Facebook account, which must uniquely correspond to a real person, the e-reader is an
individualizing device. It is the object that establishes trusted access with books stored in the cloud
and ensures that each and every person purchases their own rights to read each book. The only
transfer that is allowed is of the device itself, which is the thing that a person actually does own.
But even then, such an act must be reported back to the cloud: the hardware needs to be deregistered and then re-registered with credit card and authentication details about the new owner.

This is no library - or it's only a library in the most impoverished sense of the word. It is a new
enclosure, and it is a familiar story: things in the world (from letters, to photographs, to albums, to
books) are digitized (as emails, JPEGs, MP3s, and PDFs) and subsequently migrate to a remote

location or service (Gmail, Facebook, iTunes, Kindle Store). The middle phase is the biggest
disruption, when the interface does the poorest job concealing the material transformations taking
place, when the work involved in creating those transformations is most apparent, often because
the person themselves is deeply involved in the process (of ripping vinyl, for instance). In the third
phase, the user interface becomes easier, more “frictionless,” and what appears to be just another
application or folder on one’s computer is an engorged, property-and-energy-hungry warehouse a
thousand miles away.

Capture, Loss

Intellectual property's enclosure is easy enough to imagine in warehouses of remote, secure hard
drives. But the cloud internalizes processing as well as storage, capturing the new forms of cooperation and collaboration characterizing the new economy and its immaterial labor. Social
relations are transmuted into database relations on the "social web," which absorbs selforganization as well. Because of this, the cloud impacts as strongly on the production of
publications, as on their consumption, in the tradition sense.

Storage, applications, and services offered in the cloud are marketed for consumption by authors
and publishers alike. Document editing, project management, and accounting are peeled slowly
away from the office staff and personal computers into the data centers; interfaces are established
into various publication channels from print on demand to digital book platforms. In the fully
realized vision of cloud publishing, the entire technical and logistical apparatus is externalized,
leaving only the human labor.. and their thin devices remaining. Little distinguishes the authorobject from the editor-object from the reader-object. All of them.. maintain their position in the
network by paying for lightweight computers and their updates, cloud services, and broadband
internet connections.
On the production side of the book, the promise of the cloud is a recovery of the profits “lost” to
file-sharing, as all that exchange is disciplined, standardized and measured. Consumers are finally
promised the access to the history of human knowledge that they had already improvised by
themselves, but now without the omnipresent threat of legal prosecution. One has the sneaking
suspicion though.. that such a compromise is as hollow.. as the promises to a desperate city of the

jobs that will be created in a new constructed data center - - and that pitting “food on the table”
against “access to knowledge” is both a distraction from and a legitimation of the forms of power
emerging in the cloud. It's a distraction because it's by policing access to knowledge that the
middle-man platform can extract value from publication, both on the writing and reading sides of
the book; and it's a legitimation because the platform poses itself as the only entity that can resolve
the contradiction between the two sides.

When the platform recedes behind the interface, these two sides are the the most visible
antagonism - in a tug-of-war with each other - - yet neither the “producers” nor the “consumers” of
publications are becoming more wealthy, or working less to survive. If we turn the picture
sideways, however, a new contradiction emerges, between the indebted, living labor - of authors,
editors, translators, and readers - on one side, and on the other.. data centers, semiconductors,
mobile technology, expropriated software, power companies, and intellectual property.
The talk in the data center industry of the “industrialization” of the cloud refers to the scientific
approach to improving design, efficiency, and performance. But the term also recalls the basic
narrative of the Industrial Revolution: the movement from home-based manufacturing by hand to
large-scale production in factories. As desktop computers pass into obsolescence, we shift from a
networked, but small-scale, relationship to computation (think of “home publishing”) to a
reorganized form of production that puts the accumulated energy of millions to work through
these cloud companies and their modernized data centers.

What kind of buildings are these blank superstructures? Factories for the 21st century? An engineer
named Ken Patchett described the Facebook data center that way in a television interview, “This is
a factory. It’s just a different kind of factory than you might be used to.” Those factories that we’re
“used to,” continue to exist (at Foxconn, for instance) producing the infrastructure, under
recognizably exploitative conditions, for a “different kind of factory,” - a factory that extends far
beyond the walls of the data center.

But the idea of the factory is only part of the picture - this building is also a mine.. and the
dispersed workforce devote most of their waking hours to mining-in-reverse, packing it full of data,
under the expectation that someone - soon - will figure out how to pull out something valuable.

Both metaphors rely on the image of a mass of workers (dispersed as it may be) and leave a darker
and more difficult possibility: the data center is like the hydroelectric plant, damming up property,
sociality, creativity and knowledge, while engineers and financiers look for the algorithms to
release the accumulated cultural and social resources on demand, as profit.

This returns us to the interface, site of the struggles over the management and control of access to
property and infrastructure. Previously, these struggles were situated within the computer-object
and the implied freedom provided by its computation, storage, and possibilities for connection
with others. Now, however, the eviscerated device is more interface than object, and it is exactly
here at the interface that the new technological enclosures have taken form (for example, see
Apple's iOS products, Google's search box, and Amazon's "marketplace"). Control over the
interface is guaranteed by control over the entire techno-business stack: the distributed hardware
devices, centralized data centers, and the software that mediates the space between. Every major
technology corporation must now operate on all levels to protect against any loss.

There is a centripetal force to the cloud and this essay has been written in its irresistible pull. In
spite of the sheer mass of capital that is organized to produce this gravity and the seeming
insurmountability of it all, there is no chance that the system will absolutely manage and control
the noise within it. Riots break out on the factory floor; algorithmic trading wreaks havoc on the
stock market in an instant; data centers go offline; 100 million Facebook accounts are discovered
to be fake; the list will go on. These cracks in the interface don't point to any possible future, or
any desirable one, but they do draw attention to openings that might circumvent the logic of
access.

"What happens from there is another question." This is where I left things off in the text when I
finished it a year ago. It's a disappointing ending: we just have to invent ways of occupying the
destruction, violence and collapse that emerge out of economic inequality, global warming,
dismantled social welfare, and so on. And there's not much that's happened since then to make us
very optimistic - maybe here I only have to mention the NSA. But as I began with an ending, I
really should end at a beginning.
I think we were obliged to adopt a negative, critical position in response the cyber-utopianism of

the last almost 20 years, whether in its naive or cynical forms. We had to identify and theorize the
darker side of things. But it can become habitual, and when the dark side materializes, as it has
over the past few years - so that everyone knows the truth - then the obligation flips around,
doesn't it? To break out of habitual criticism as the tacit, defeated acceptance of what is. But, what
could be? Where do we find new political imaginaries? Not to ask what is the bright side, or what
can we do to cope, but what are the genuinely emancipatory possibilities that are somehow still
latent, buried under the present - or emerging within those ruptures in it? - - - I can't make it all
the way to a happy ending, to a happy beginning, but at least it's a beginning and not the end.


file sharing in Giorgetta, Nicoletti & Adema 2015


Giorgetta, Nicoletti & Adema
A Conversation on Digital Archiving Practices
2015


# A Conversation on Digital Archiving Practices

A couple of months ago Davide Giorgetta and Valerio Nicoletti (both ISIA
Urbino) did an interview with me for their MA in Design of Publishing. Silvio
Lorusso, was so kind to publish the interview on the fantastic
[p-dpa.net](http://p-dpa.net/a-conversation-on-digital-archiving-practices-
with-janneke-adema/). I am reblogging it here.

* * *

[Davide Giorgetta](http://p-dpa.net/creator/davide-giorgetta/) and [Valerio
Nicoletti](http://p-dpa.net/creator/valerio-nicoletti/) are both students from
[ISIA Urbino](http://www.isiaurbino.net/home/), where they attend the Master
Course in Design for Publishing. They are currently investigating the
independent side of digital archiving practices within the scope of the
publishing world.

As part of their research, they asked some questions to Janneke Adema, who is
Research Fellow in Digital Media at Coventry University, with a PhD in Media
(Coventry University) and a background in History (MA) and Philosophy (MA)
(both University of Groningen) and Book and Digital Media Studies (MA) (Leiden
University). Janneke’s PhD thesis focuses on the future of the scholarly book
in the humanities. She has been conducting research for the
[OAPEN](http://project.oapen.org/index.php/about-oapen) project, and
subsequently the OAPEN foundation, from 2008 until 2013 (including research
for OAPEN-NL and DOAB). Her research for OAPEN focused on user needs and
publishing models concerning Open Access books in the Humanities and Social
Sciences.

**Davide Giorgetta & Valerio Nicoletti: Does a way out from the debate between
publishers and digital independent libraries (Monoskop Log, Ubuweb,
Aaaarg.org) exist, in terms of copyright? An alternative solution able to
solve the issue and to provide equal opportunities to everyone? Would the fear
of publishers of a possible reduction of incomes be legitimized if the access
to their digital publications was open and free?**

Janneke Adema: This is an interesting question, since for many academics this
‘way out’ (at least in so far it concerns scholarly publications) has been
envisioned in or through the open access movement and the use of Creative
Commons licenses. However, the open access movement, a rather plural and
loosely defined group of people, institutions and networks, in its more
moderate instantiations tends to distance itself from piracy and copyright
infringement or copy(far)left practices. Through its use of and favoring of
Creative Commons licenses one could even argue that it has been mainly
concerned with a reform of copyright rather than a radical critique of and
rethinking of the common and the right to copy (Cramer 2013, Hall
2014).1(http://p-dpa.net/a-conversation-on-digital-archiving-practices-
with-janneke-adema/#fn:1 "see footnote") Nonetheless, in its more radical
guises open access can be more closely aligned with the practices associated
with digital pirate libraries such as the ones listed above, for instance
through Aaron Swartz’s notion of [Guerilla Open
Access](https://archive.org/stream/GuerillaOpenAccessManifesto/Goamjuly2008_djvu.txt):

> We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and
share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and
add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the
Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing
networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access. (Swartz 2008)

However whatever form or vision of open access you prefer, I do not think it
is a ‘solution’ to any problem—such as copyright/fight—, but I would rather
see it, as I have written
[elsewhere](http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2014/11/18
/embracing-messiness-adema-pdsc14/), ‘as an ongoing processual and critical
engagement with changes in the publishing system, in our scholarly
communication practices and in our media and technologies of communication.’
And in this sense open access practices offer us the possibility to critically
reflect upon the politics of knowledge production, including copyright and
piracy, openness and the commons, indeed, even upon the nature of the book
itself.

With respect to the second part of your question, again, where it concerns
scholarly books, [research by Ronald
Snijder](https://scholar.google.com/citations?view_op=view_citation&hl=en&user=PuDczakAAAAJ&citation_for_view=PuDczakAAAAJ:u-x6o8ySG0sC)
shows no decline in sales or income for publishers once they release their
scholarly books in open access. The open availability does however lead to
more discovery and online consultation, meaning that it actually might lead to
more ‘impact’ for scholarly books (Snijder 2010).

**DG, VN: In which way, if any, are digital archiving practices stimulating
new publishing phenomenons? Are there any innovative outcomes, apart the
obvious relation to p.o.d. tools? (or interesting new projects in this
field)**

JA: Beyond extending access, I am mostly interested in how digital archiving
practices have the potential to stimulate the following practices or phenomena
(which in no way are specific to digital archiving or publishing practices, as
they have always been a potential part of print publications too): reuse and
remix; processual research and iterative publishing; and collaborative forms
of knowledge production. These practices interest me mainly as they have the
potential to critique the way the (printed) book has been commodified and
essentialised over the centuries, in a bound, linear and fixed format, a
practice which is currently being replicated in a digital context. Indeed, the
book has been fixed in this way both discursively and through a system of
material production within publishing and academia—which includes our
institutions and practices of scholarly communication—that prefers book
objects as quantifiable and auditable performance indicators and as marketable
commodities and objects of symbolic value exchange. The practices and
phenomena mentioned above, i.e. remix, versioning and collaboration, have the
potential to help us to reimagine the bound nature of the book and to explore
both a spatial and temporal critique of the book as a fixed object; they can
aid us to examine and experiment with various different incisions that can be
made in our scholarship as part of the informal and formal publishing and
communication of our research that goes beyond the final research commodity.
In this sense I am interested in how these specific digital archiving,
research and publishing practices offer us the possibility to imagine a
different, perhaps more ethical humanities, a humanities that is processual,
contingent, unbound and unfinished. How can these practices aid us in how to
cut well in the ongoing unfolding of our research, how can they help us
explore how to make potentially better interventions? How can we take
responsibility as scholars for our entangled becoming with our research and
publications? (Barad 2007, Kember and Zylinska 2012)

Examples that I find interesting in the realm of the humanities in this
respect include projects that experiment with such a critique of our fixed,
print-based practices and institutions in an affirmative way: for example Mark
Amerika’s [remixthebook](http://www.remixthebook.com/) project; Open
Humanities’ [Living Books about Life](http://www.livingbooksaboutlife.org/)
series; projects such as
[Vectors](http://vectors.usc.edu/issues/index.php?issue=7) and
[Scalar](http://scalar.usc.edu/); and collaborative knowledge production,
archiving and creation projects, from wiki-based research projects to AAAARG.

**DG, VN: In which way does a digital container influence its content? Does
the same book — if archived on different platforms, such as _Internet Archive_
, _The Pirate Bay_ , _Monoskop Log_ — still remain the same cultural item?**

JA: In short my answer to this question would be ‘no’. Books are embodied
entities, which are materially established through their specific affordances
in relationship to their production, dissemination, reception and
preservation. This means that the specific materiality of the (digital) book
is partly an outcome of these ongoing processes. Katherine Hayles has argued
in this respect that materiality is an emergent property:

> In this view of materiality, it is not merely an inert collection of
physical properties but a dynamic quality that emerges from the interplay
between the text as a physical artifact, its conceptual content, and the
interpretive activities of readers and writers. Materiality thus cannot be
specified in advance; rather, it occupies a borderland— or better, performs as
connective tissue—joining the physical and mental, the artifact and the user.
(2004: 72)

Similarly, Matthew Kirschenbaum points out that the preservation of digital
objects is:

> _logically inseparable_ from the act of their creation’ (…) ‘The lag between
creation and preservation collapses completely, since a digital object may
only ever be said to be preserved _if_ it is accessible, and each individual
access creates the object anew. One can, in a very literal sense, _never_
access the “same” electronic file twice, since each and every access
constitutes a distinct instance of the file that will be addressed and stored
in a unique location in computer memory. (Kirschenbaum 2013)

Every time we access a digital object, we thus duplicate it, we copy it and we
instantiate it. And this is exactly why, in our strategies of conservation,
every time we access a file we also (re)create these objects anew over and
over again. The agency of the archive, of the software and hardware, are also
apparent here, where archives are themselves ‘active ‘‘archaeologists’’ of
knowledge’ (Ernst 2011: 239) and, as Kirschenbaum puts it, ‘the archive writes
itself’ (2013).

In this sense a book can be seen as an apparatus, consisting of an
entanglement of relationships between, among other things, authors, books, the
outside world, readers, the material production and political economy of book
publishing, its preservation and material instantiations, and the discursive
formation of scholarship. Books as apparatuses are thus reality shaping, they
are performative. This relates to Johanna Drucker’s notion of ‘performative
materiality’, where Drucker argues for an extension of what a book _is_ (i.e.
from a focus on its specific properties and affordances), to what a book
_does_ : ‘Performative materiality suggests that what something _is_ has to be
understood in terms of what it _does_ , how it works within machinic,
systemic, and cultural domains.’ For, as Drucker argues, ‘no matter how
detailed a description of material substrates or systems we have, their use is
performative whether this is a reading by an individual, the processing of
code, the transmission of signals through a system, the viewing of a film,
performance of a play, or a musical work and so on. Material conditions
provide an inscriptional base, a score, a point of departure, a provocation,
from which a work is produced as an event’ (Drucker 2013).

So, to come back to your question, these specific digital platforms (Monoskop,
The Pirate Bay etc.) become integral aspects of the apparatus of the book and
each in their own different way participates in the performance and
instantiation of the books in their archives. Not only does a digital book
therefore differ as a material or cultural object from a printed book, a
digital object also has materially distinct properties related to the platform
on which it is made available. Indeed, building further on the theories
described above, a book is a different object every time it is instantiated or
read, be it by a human or machinic entity; they become part of the apparatus
of the book, a performative apparatus. Therefore, as Silvio Lorusso has
stated:

[![The-Post-Digital-Publishing-Archive-An-Inventory-of-Speculative-Strategies
-----Coventry-University-----June-11th-2014-21](https://i2.wp.com/p-dpa.net
/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/The-Post-Digital-Publishing-Archive-An-Inventory-
of-Speculative-Strategies-Coventry-University-June-
11th-2014-21.png)](http://p-dpa.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/The-Post-
Digital-Publishing-Archive-An-Inventory-of-Speculative-Strategies-Coventry-
University-June-11th-2014-21.png)

**DG, VN: In your opinion, can scholarly publishing, in particular self-
archiving practices, constitute a bridge covering the gap between authors and
users in terms of access to knowledge? Could we hope that these practices will
find a broader use, moving from very specific fields (academic papers) to book
publishing in general?**

JA: On the one hand, yes. Self-archiving, or the ‘green road’ to open access,
offers a way for academics to make their research available in a preprint form
via open access repositories in a relatively simple and straightforward way,
making it easily accessible to other academics and more general audiences.
However, it can be argued that as a strategy, the green road doesn’t seem to
be very subversive, where it doesn’t actively rethink, re-imagine, or
experiment with the system of scholarly knowledge production in a more
substantial way, including peer-review and the print-based publication forms
this system continues to promote. With its emphasis on achieving universal,
free, online access to research, a rigorous critical exploration of the form
of the book itself doesn’t seem to be a main priority of green open access
activists. Stevan Harnad, one of the main proponents of green open access and
self-archiving has for instance stated that ‘it’s time to stop letting the
best get in the way of the better: Let’s forget about Libre and Gold OA until
we have managed to mandate Green Gratis OA universally’ (Harnad 2012). This is
where the self-archiving strategy in its current implementation falls short I
think with respect to the ‘breaking-down’ of barriers between authors and
users, where it isn’t necessarily committed to following a libre open access
strategy, which, one could argue, would be more open to adopting and promoting
forms of open access that are designed to make material available for others
to (re) use, copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, translate, modify, remix
and build upon? Surely this would be a more substantial strategy to bridge the
gap between authors and users with respect to the production, dissemination
and consumption of knowledge?

With respect to the second part of your question, could these practices find a
broader use? I am not sure, mainly because of the specific characteristics of
academia and scholarly publishing, where scholars are directly employed and
paid by their institutions for the research work they do. Hence, self-
archiving this work would not directly lead to any or much loss of income for
academics. In other fields, such as literary publishing for example, this
issue of remuneration can become quite urgent however, even though many [free
culture](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_culture_movement) activists (such
as Lawrence Lessig and Cory Doctorow) have argued that freely sharing cultural
goods online, or even self-publishing, doesn’t necessarily need to lead to any
loss of income for cultural producers. So in this respect I don’t think we can
lift something like open access self-archiving out of its specific context and
apply it to other contexts all that easily, although we should certainly
experiment with this of course in different domains of digital culture.

**DG, VN: After your answers, we would also receive suggestions from you. Do
you notice any unresolved or raising questions in the contemporary context of
digital archiving practices and their relation to the publishing realm?**

JA: So many :). Just to name a few: the politics of search and filtering
related to information overload; the ethics and politics of publishing in
relationship to when, where, how and why we decide to publish our research,
for what reasons and with what underlying motivations; the continued text- and
object-based focus of our archiving and publishing practices and platforms,
where there is a lack of space to publish and develop more multimodal,
iterative, diagrammatic and speculative forms of scholarship; issues of free
labor and the problem or remuneration of intellectual labor in sharing
economies etc.

**Bibliography**

* Adema, J. (2014) ‘Embracing Messiness’. [17 November 2014] available from [17 November 2014]
* Adema, J. and Hall, G. (2013) ‘The Political Nature of the Book: On Artists’ Books and Radical Open Access’. _New Formations_ 78 (1), 138–156
* Barad, K. (2007) _Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning_. Duke University Press
* Cramer, F. (2013) _Anti-Media: Ephemera on Speculative Arts_. Rotterdam : New York, NY: nai010 publishers
* Drucker, J. (2013) _Performative Materiality and Theoretical Approaches to Interface_. [online] 7 (1). available from [4 April 2014]
* Ernst, W. (2011) ‘Media Archaeography: Method and Machine versus History and Narrative of Media’. in _Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications_. ed. by Huhtamo, E. and Parikka, J. University of California Press
* Hall, G. (2014) ‘Copyfight’. in _Critical Keywords for the Digital Humanities_ , [online] Lueneburg: Centre for Digital Cultures (CDC). available from [5 December 2014]
* Harnad, S. (2012) ‘Open Access: Gratis and Libre’. [3 May 2012] available from [4 March 2014]
* Hayles, N.K. (2004) ‘Print Is Flat, Code Is Deep: The Importance of Media-Specific Analysis’. _Poetics Today_ 25 (1), 67–90
* Kember, S. and Zylinska, J. (2012) _Life After New Media: Mediation as a Vital Process_. MIT Press
* Kirschenbaum, M. (2013) ‘The .txtual Condition: Digital Humanities, Born-Digital Archives, and the Future Literary’. _DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly_ [online] 7 (1). available from [20 July 2014]
* Lorusso, S. (2014) _The Post-Digital Publishing Archive: An Inventory of Speculative Strategies_. in ‘The Aesthetics of the Humanities: Towards a Poetic Knowledge Production’ [online] held 11 June 2014 at Coventry University. available from [31 May 2015]
* Snijder, R. (2010) ‘The Profits of Free Books: An Experiment to Measure the Impact of Open Access Publishing’. _Learned Publishing_ 23 (4), 293–301
* Swartz, A. (2008) _Guerilla Open Access Manifesto_ [online] available from [31 May 2015]



file sharing in Mars & Medak 2019


Mars & Medak
System of a Takedown
2019


System of a Takedown: Control and De-­commodification in the Circuits of Academic Publishing
Marcell Mars and Tomislav Medak

Since 2012 the Public Library/Memory of the World1 project has
been developing and publicly supporting scenarios for massive
disobedience against the current regulation of production and
circulation of knowledge and culture in the digital realm. While
the significance of that year may not be immediately apparent to
everyone, across the peripheries of an unevenly developed world
of higher education and research it produced a resonating void.
The takedown of the book-­sharing site Library.nu in early 2012
gave rise to an anxiety that the equalizing effect that its piracy
had created—­the fact that access to the most recent and relevant
scholarship was no longer a privilege of rich academic institutions
in a few countries of the world (or, for that matter, the exclusive
preserve of academia to begin with)—­would simply disappear into
thin air. While alternatives within these peripheries quickly filled
the gap, it was only through an unlikely set of circumstances that
they were able to do so, let alone continue to exist in light of the
legal persecution they now also face.

48

The starting point for the Public Library/Memory of the World
project was a simple consideration: the public library is the institutional form that societies have devised in order to make knowledge
and culture accessible to all their members regardless of social or
economic status. There’s a political consensus that this principle of
access is fundamental to the purpose of a modern society. Yet, as
digital networks have radically expanded the access to literature
and scientific research, public libraries were largely denied the
ability to extend to digital “objects” the kind of de-­commodified
access they provide in the world of print. For instance, libraries
frequently don’t have the right to purchase e-­books for lending and
preservation. If they do, they are limited by how many times—­
twenty-­six in the case of one publisher—­and under what conditions
they can lend them before not only the license but the “object”
itself is revoked. In the case of academic journals, it is even worse:
as they move to predominantly digital models of distribution,
libraries can provide access to and “preserve” them only for as
long as they pay extortionate prices for ongoing subscriptions. By
building tools for organizing and sharing electronic libraries, creating digitization workflows, and making books available online, the
Public Library/Memory of the World project is aimed at helping to
fill the space that remains denied to real-­world public libraries. It is
obviously not alone in this effort. There are many other platforms,
some more public, some more secretive, working to help people
share books. And the practice of sharing is massive.
—­https://www.memoryoftheworld.org

Capitalism and Schizophrenia
New media remediate old media. Media pay homage to their
(mediatic) predecessors, which themselves pay homage to their
own (mediatic) predecessors. Computer graphics remediate film,
which remediates photography, which remediates painting, and so
on (McLuhan 1965, 8; Bolter and Grusin 1999). Attempts to understand new media technologies always settle on a set of metaphors

(of the old and familiar), in order to approximate what is similar,
and yet at the same time name the new. Every such metaphor has
its semiotic distance, decay, or inverse-­square law that draws the
limit how far the metaphor can go in its explanation of the phenomenon to which it is applied. The intellectual work in the Age of
Mechanical Reproduction thus received an unfortunate metaphor:
intellectual property. A metaphor modeled on the scarce and
exclusive character of property over land. As the Age of Mechanical
Reproduction became more and more the Age of Discrete and
Digital Reproduction, another metaphor emerged, one that reveals
the quandary left after decades of decay resulting from the increasing distanciation of intellectual property from the intellectual work
it seeks to regulate, and that metaphor is: schizophrenia.
Technologies compete with each other—­the discrete and the
digital thus competes with the mechanical—­and the aftermath of
these clashes can be dramatic. People lose their jobs, companies
go bankrupt, disciplines lose their departments, and computer
users lose their old files. More often than not, clashes between
competing technologies create antagonisms between different
social groups. Their voices are (sometimes) heard, and society tries
to balance their interests.
If the institutional remedies cannot resolve the social antagonism,
the law is called on to mediate. Yet in the present, the legal system
only reproduces the schizoid impasse where the metaphor of property over land is applied to works of intellect that have in practical
terms become universally accessible in the digital world. Court
cases do not result in a restoration of balance but rather in the
confirmation of entrenched interests. It is, however, not necessary
that courts act in such a one-­sided manner. As Cornelia Vismann
(2011) reminds us in her analysis of the ancient roots of legal mediation, the juridical process has two facets: first, a theatrical aspect
that has common roots with the Greek dramatic theatre and its
social function as a translator of a matter of conflict into a case for
weighted juridical debate; second, an agonistic aspect not unlike a
sporting competition where a winner has to be decided, one that

49

50

leads to judgment and sanction. In the matter of copyright versus
access, however, the fact that courts cannot look past the metaphor of intellectual property, which reduces any understanding of
our contemporary technosocial condition to an analogy with the
scarcity-­based language of property over land, has meant that they
have failed to adjudicate a matter of conflict between the equalizing effects of universal access to knowledge and the guarantees of
rightful remuneration for intellectual labor into a meaningful social
resolution. Rather they have primarily reasserted the agonistic
aspect by supporting exclusively the commercial interests of large
copyright industries that structure and deepen that conflict at the
societal level.
This is not surprising. As many other elements of contemporary
law, the legal norms of copyright were articulated and codified
through the centuries-­long development of the capitalist state
and world-system. The legal system is, as Nicos Poulantzas (2008,
25–­26) suggests, genetically structured by capitalist development.
And yet at the same time it is semi-­autonomous; the development
of its norms and institutional aspects is largely endogenous and
partly responsive to the specific needs of other social subsystems.
Still, if the law and the courts are the codified and lived rationality
of a social formation, then the choice of intellectual property as a
metaphor in capitalist society comes as no surprise, as its principal
objective is to institute a formal political-­economic framework for
the commodification of intellectual labor that produces knowledge
and culture. There can be no balance, only subsumption and
accumulation. Capitalism and schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia abounds wherever the discrete and the digital
breaking barriers to access meets capitalism. One can only wonder
how the conflicting interests of different divisions get disputed
and negotiated in successful corporate giants like Sony Group
where Sony Pictures Entertainment,2 Sony Music Entertainment3
and Sony Computer Entertainment coexist under the same roof
with the Sony Electronics division, which invented the Walkman
back in 1979 and went on to manufacture devices and gadgets like

home (and professional) audio and video players/recorders (VHS,
Betamax, TV, HiFi, cassette, CD/DVD, mp3, mobile phones, etc.),
storage devices, personal computers, and game consoles. In the
famous 1984 Betamax case (“Sony Corp. of America v. Universal
City Studios, Inc.,” Wikipedia 2015), Universal Studios and the Walt
Disney Company sued Sony for aiding copyright infringement with
their Betamax video recorders. Sony won. The court decision in
favor of fair use rather than copyright infringement laid the legal
ground for home recording technology as the foundation of future
analog, and subsequently digital, content sharing.
Five years later, Sony bought its first major Hollywood studio:
Columbia Pictures. In 2004 Sony Music Entertainment merged with
Bertelsmann Music Group to create Sony BMG. However, things
changed as Sony became the content producer and we entered the
age of the discrete and the digital. Another five years later, in 2009,
Sony BMG sued Joel Tenenbaum for downloading and then sharing
thirty-­one songs. The jury awarded US$675,000 to the music
companies (US$22,000 per song). This is known as “the second
file-­sharing case.” “The first file-­sharing case” was 2007’s Capitol Records, Inc. v. Thomas-­Rasset, which concerned the downloading of
twenty-­four songs. In the second file-­sharing case, the jury awarded
music companies US$1,920,000 in statutory damages (US$80,000
per song). The defendant, Jammie Thomas, was a Native American
mother of four from Brainerd, Minnesota, who worked at the time
as a natural resources coordinator for the Mille Lacs Band of the
Native American Ojibwe people. The conflict between access and
copyright took a clear social relief.
Encouraged by the court decisions in the years that followed, the
movie and music industries have started to publicly claim staggering numbers in annual losses: US$58 billion and 370,000 lost jobs
in the United States alone. The purported losses in sales were,
however, at least seven times bigger than the actual losses and,
if the jobs figures had been true, after only one year there would
have been no one left working in the content industry (Reid 2012).
Capitalism and schizophrenia.

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52

If there is a reason to make an exception from the landed logic of
property being imposed onto the world of the intellect, a reason
to which few would object, it would be for access for educational
purposes. Universities in particular give an institutional form to
the premise that equal access to knowledge is a prerequisite for
building a society where all people are equal.
In this noble endeavor to make universal access to knowledge
central to social development, some universities stand out more
than the others. Consider, for example, the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology (MIT). The Free Culture and Open Access movements
have never hidden their origins, inspiration, and model in the
success of the Free Software Movement, which was founded in
1984 by Richard Stallman while he was working at the MIT Artificial
Intelligence lab. It was at the MIT Museum that the “Hall of Hacks”
was set up to proudly display the roots of hacking culture. Hacking
culture at MIT takes many shapes and forms. MIT hackers famously
put a fire truck (2006) and a campus police car (1994) onto the
roof of the Great Dome of the campus’s Building 10; they landed
(and then exploded) a weather balloon onto the pitch of Harvard
Stadium during a Harvard–­Yale football game; turned the quote
that “getting an education from MIT is like taking a drink from a Fire
Hose” into a literal fire hydrant serving as a drinking fountain in
front of the largest lecture hall on campus; and many, many other
“hacks” (Peterson 2011).
The World Wide Web Consortium was founded at MIT in 1993.
Presently its mission states as its goal “to enable human communication, commerce, and opportunities to share knowledge,”
on the principles of “Web for All” and the corresponding, more
technologically focused “Web on Everything.” Similarly, MIT began
its OpenCourseWare project in 2002 in order “to publish all of
[MIT’s] course materials online and make them widely available to
everyone” (n.d.). The One Laptop Per Child project was created in
2005 in order to help children “learn, share, create, and collaborate” (2010). Recently the MIT Media Lab (2017) has even started its
own Disobedience Award, which “will go to a living person or group

engaged in what we believe is extraordinary disobedience for
the benefit of society . . . seeking both expected and unexpected
nominees.” When it comes to the governance of access to MIT’s
own resources, it is well known that anyone who is registered and
connected to the “open campus” wireless network, either by being
physically present or via VPN, can search JSTOR, Google Scholar,
and other databases in order to access otherwise paywalled journals from major publishers such as Reed Elsevier, Wiley-­Blackwell,
Springer, Taylor and Francis, or Sage.
The MIT Press has also published numerous books that we love
and without which we would have never developed the Public
Library/Memory of the World project to the stage where it is now.
For instance, only after reading Markus Krajewski’s Paper Machines: About Cards & Catalogs, 1548–­1929 (2011) and learning how
conceptually close librarians came to the universal Turing machine
with the invention of the index card catalog did we center the
Public Library/Memory of the World around the idea of the catalog.
Eric von Hippel’s Democratizing Innovation (2005) taught us how end
users could become empowered to innovate and accordingly we
have built our public library as a distributed network of amateur
librarians acting as peers sharing their catalogs and books. Sven
Spieker’s The Big Archive: Art from Bureaucracy (2008) showed us the
exciting hybrid meta-­space between psychoanalysis, media theory,
and conceptual art one could encounter by visiting the world of
catalogs and archives. Understanding capitalism and schizophrenia would have been hard without Semiotext(e)’s translations of
Deleuze and Guattari, and remaining on the utopian path would
have been impossible if not for our reading of Cybernetic Revolutionaries (Medina 2011), Imagine No Possessions (Kiaer 2005), or Art
Power (Groys 2008).

Our Road into Schizophrenia, Commodity
Paradox, Political Strategy
Our vision for the Public Library/Memory of the World resonated
with many people. After the project initially gained a large number

53

54

of users, and was presented in numerous prominent artistic
venues such as Museum Reina Sofía, Transmediale, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Calvert22, 98weeks, and many more, it was no
small honor when Eric Kluitenberg and David Garcia invited us to
write about the project for an anthology on tactical media that was
to be published by the MIT Press. Tactical media is exactly where
we would situate ourselves on the map. Building on Michel de
Certeau’s concept of tactics as agency of the weak operating in the
terrain of strategic power, the tactical media (Tactical Media Files
2017) emerged in the political and technological conjuncture of the
1990s. Falling into the “art-­into-­life” lineage of historic avant-­gardes,
Situationism, DIY culture, techno-­hippiedom, and media piracy, it
constituted a heterogeneous field of practices and a manifestly
international movement that combined experimental media and
political activism into interventions that contested the post–­Cold
War world of global capitalism and preemptive warfare on a hybrid
terrain of media, institutions, and mass movements. Practices of
tactical media ranged from ephemeral media pranks, hoaxes, and
hacktivism to reappropriations of media apparatuses, institutional
settings, and political venues. We see our work as following in
that lineage of recuperation of the means of communication from
their capture by personal and impersonal structures of political or
economic power.
Yet the contract for our contribution that the MIT Press sent us in
early 2015 was an instant reminder of the current state of affairs
in academic publishing: in return for our contribution and transfer
of our copyrights, we would receive no compensation: no right to
wage and no right to further distribute our work.
Only weeks later our work would land us fully into schizophrenia:
the Public Library/Memory of the World received two takedown
notices from the MIT Press for books that could be found in its
back then relatively small yet easily discoverable online collection
located at https://library.memoryoftheworld.org, including a notice
for one of the books that had served as an inspiration to us: Art
Power. First, no wage and, now, no access. A true paradox of the

present-­day system of knowledge production: products of our
labor are commodities, yet the labor-­power producing them is
denied the same status. While the project’s vision resonates with
many, including the MIT Press, it has to be shut down. Capitalism
and schizophrenia.4
Or, maybe, not. Maybe we don’t have to go down that impasse.
Starting from the two structural circumstances imposed on us by
the MIT Press—­the denial of wage and the denial of access—­we
can begin to analyze why copyright infringement is not merely, as
the industry and the courts would have it, a matter of illegality. But
rather a matter of legitimate action.
Over the past three decades a deep transformation, induced by
the factors of technological change and economic restructuring,
has been unfolding at different scales, changing the way works
of culture and knowledge are produced and distributed across
an unevenly developed world. As new technologies are adopted,
generalized, and adapted to the realities of the accumulation
process—­a process we could see unfolding with the commodification of the internet over the past fifteen years—­the core and
the periphery adopt different strategies of opposition to the
inequalities and exclusions these technologies start to reproduce.
The core, with its emancipatory and countercultural narratives,
pursues strategies that develop legal, economic, or technological
alternatives. However, these strategies frequently fail to secure
broader transformative effects as the competitive forces of the
market appropriate, marginalize, or make obsolete the alternatives
they advocate. Such seems to have been the destiny of much of the
free software, open access, and free culture alternatives that have
developed over this period.
In contrast, the periphery, in order to advance, relies on strategies
of “stealing” that bypass socioeconomic barriers by refusing to
submit to the harmonized regulation that sets the frame for global
economic exchange. The piracy of intellectual property or industrial
secrets thus creates a shadow system of exchange resisting the

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asymmetries of development in the world economy. However, its
illegality serves as a pretext for the governments and companies of
the core to devise and impose further controls over the technosocial systems that facilitate these exchanges.
Both strategies develop specific politics—­a politics of reform, on
the one hand, and a politics of obfuscation and resistance, on the
other—­yet both are defensive politics that affirm the limitations
of what remains inside and what remains outside of the politically
legitimate.
The copyright industry giants of the past and the IT industry giants
of the present are thus currently sorting it out to whose greater
benefit will this new round of commodification work out. For those
who find themselves outside of the the camps of these two factions
of capital, there’s a window of opportunity, however, to reconceive
the mode of production of literature and science that has been
with us since the beginning of the print trade and the dawn of capitalism. It’s a matter of change, at the tail end of which ultimately
lies a dilemma: whether we’re going to live in a more equal or a
more unjust, a more commonised or a more commodified world.

Authorship, Law, and Legitimacy
Before we can talk of such structural transformation, the normative
question we expect to be asked is whether something that is considered a matter of law and juridical decision can be made a matter
of politics and political process. Let’s see.
Copyright has a fundamentally economic function—­to unambiguously establish individualized property in the products of creative
labor. A clear indication of this economic function is the substantive requirement of originality that the work is expected to have
in order to be copyrightable. Legal interpretations set a very low
standard on what counts as original, as their function is no more
than to demarcate one creative contribution from another. Once
a legal title is unambiguously assigned, there is a person holding

property with whose consent the contracting, commodification,
and marketing of the work can proceed.5 In that respect copyright
is not that different from the requirement of formal freedom that
is granted to a laborer to contract out their own labor-­power as a
commodity to capital, giving capital authorization to extract maximum productivity and appropriate the products of the laborer’s
labor.6 Copyright might be just a more efficient mechanism of
exploitation as it unfolds through selling of produced commodities
and not labor power. Art market obscures and mediates the
capital-­labor relation
When we talk today of illegal copying, we primarily mean an
infringement of the legal rights of authors and publishers. There’s an
immediate assumption that the infringing practice of illegal copying
and distribution falls under the domain of juridical sanction, that it is
a matter of law. Yet if we look to the history of copyright, the illegality
of copying was a political matter long before it became a legal one.
Publisher’s rights, author’s rights, and mechanisms of reputation—­
the three elements that are fundamental to the present-­day
copyright system—­all have their historic roots in the context of
absolutism and early capitalism in seventeenth-­and eighteenth-­
century Europe. Before publishers and authors were given a
temporary monopoly over the exploitation of their publications
instituted in the form of copyright, they were operating in a system
where they were forced to obtain a privilege to print books from
royal censors. The first printing privileges granted to publishers, in
early seventeenth-­century Great Britain,7 came with the responsibility of publishers to control what was being published and
disseminated in a growing body of printed matter that started to
reach the public in the aftermath of the invention of print and the
rise of the reading culture. The illegality in these early days of print
referred either to printing books without the permission of the
censor or printing books that were already published by another
printer in the territory where the censor held authority. The transition from the privilege tied to the publisher to the privilege tied to
the natural person of the author would unfold only later.

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58

In the United Kingdom this transition occurred as the guild of
printers, Stationers’ Company, failed to secure the extension of its
printing monopoly and thus, in order to continue with its business,
decided to advocate the introduction of copyright for the authors
instead. This resulted in the passing of the Copyright Act of 1709,
also known as the Statute of Anne (Rose 2010). The censoring
authority and enterprising publishers now proceeded in lockstep to
isolate the author as the central figure in the regulation of literary
and scientific production. Not only did the author receive exclusive
rights to the work, the author was also made—­as Foucault has
famously analyzed (Foucault 1980, 124)—­the identifiable subject of
scrutiny, censorship, and political sanction by the absolutist state.
Although the Romantic author slowly took the center stage in
copyright regulations, economic compensation for the work would
long remain no more than honorary. Until well into the eighteenth
century, literary writing and creativity in general were regarded as
resulting from divine inspiration and not the individual genius of
the author. Writing was a work of honor and distinction, not something requiring an honest day’s pay.8 Money earned in the growing
printing industry mostly stayed in the pockets of publishers, while
the author received literally an honorarium, a flat sum that served
as a “token of esteem” (Woodmansee 1996, 42). It is only once
authors began to voice demands for securing their material and
political independence from patronage and authority that they also
started to make claims for rightful remuneration.
Thus, before it was made a matter of law, copyright was a matter of
politics and economy.

Copyright, Labor, and Economic Domination
The full-­blown affirmation of the Romantic author-­function marks
the historic moment where a compromise is established between
the right of publishers to the economic exploitation of works and
the right of authors to rightful compensation for those works. Economically, this redistribution from publishers to authors was made

possible by the expanding market for printed books in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, while politically this was catalyzed
by the growing desire for the autonomy of scientific and literary
production from the system of feudal patronage and censorship
in gradually liberalizing and modernizing capitalist societies. The
newfound autonomy of production was substantially coupled to
production specifically for the market. However, this irenic balance
could not last for very long. Once the production of culture and
science was subsumed under the exigencies of the generalized
market, it had to follow the laws of commodification and competition from which no form of commodity production can escape.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, copyright expanded to
a number of other forms of creativity, transcending its primarily
literary and scientific ambit and becoming part of the broader
set of intellectual property rights that are fundamental to the
functioning and positioning of capitalist enterprise. The corporatization of the production of culture and knowledge thus brought
about a decisive break from the Romantic model that singularized
authorship in the person of the author. The production of cultural
commodities nowadays involves a number of creative inputs from
both credited (but mostly unwaged) and uncredited (but mostly
waged) contributors. The “moral rights of the author,” a substantive
link between the work and the person of the author, are markedly
out of step with these realities, yet they still perform an important
function in the moral economy of reputation, which then serves as
the legitimation of copyright enforcement and monopoly. Moral
rights allow easy attribution; incentivize authors to subsidize
publishers by self-­financing their own work in the hope of topping
the sales charts, rankings, or indexes; and help markets develop
along winner-­takes-­all principles.
The level of concentration in industries primarily concerned with
various forms of intellectual property rights is staggering. The film
industry is a US$88 billion industry dominated by six major studios
(PwC 2015c). The recorded music industry is an almost US$20
billion industry dominated by only three major labels (PwC 2015b).

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60

The publishing industry is a US$120 billion industry where the
leading ten companies earn in revenues more than the next forty
largest publishing groups (PwC 2015a; Wischenbart 2014).

The Oligopoly and Academic Publishing
Academic publishing in particular draws the state of play into stark
relief. It’s a US$10 billion industry dominated by five publishers and
financed up to 75 percent from library subscriptions. It’s notorious
for achieving extreme year-­on-­year profit margins—­in the case of
Reed Elsevier regularly over 30 percent, with Taylor and Francis,
Springer, Wiley-­Blackwell and Sage barely lagging behind (Larivière,
Haustein, and Mongeon 2015). Given that the work of contributing
authors is not paid but rather financed by their institutions (provided, that is, that they are employed at an institution) and that
these publications nowadays come mostly in the form of electronic
articles licensed under subscription for temporary use to libraries
and no longer sold as printed copies, the public interest could be
served at a much lower cost by leaving commercial closed-­access
publishers out of the equation entirely.
But that cannot be done, of course. The chief reason for this is that
the system of academic reputation and ranking based on publish-­
or-­perish principles is historically entangled with the business of
academic publishers. Anyone who doesn’t want to put their academic career at risk is advised to steer away from being perceived
as reneging on that not-­so-­tacit deal. While this is patently clear
to many in academia, opting for the alternative of open access
means not playing by the rules, and not playing by the rules can
have real-­life consequences, particularly for younger academics.
Early career scholars have to publish in prestigious journals if they
want to advance in the highly competitive and exclusive system of
academia (Kendzior 2012).
Copyright in academic publishing has thus become simply a mechanism of the direct transfer of economic power from producers to
publishers, giving publishers an instrument for maintaining their

stranglehold on the output of academia. But publishers also have
control over metrics and citation indexes, pandering to the authors
with better tools for maximizing their impact and self-­promotion.
Reputation and copyright are extortive instruments that publishers
can wield against authors and the public to prevent an alternative
from emerging.9
The state of the academic publishing business signals how the
“copyright industries” in general might continue to control the
field as their distribution model now transitions to streaming or
licensed-­access models. In the age of cloud computing, autonomous infrastructures run by communities of enthusiasts are
becoming increasingly a thing of the past. “Copyright industries,”
supported by the complicit legal system, now can pressure proxies
for these infrastructures, such as providers of server colocation,
virtual hosting, and domain-­name network services, to enforce
injunctions for them without ever getting involved in direct, costly
infringement litigation. Efficient shutdowns of precarious shadow
systems allow for a corporate market consolidation wherein the
majority of streaming infrastructures end up under the control of a
few corporations.

Illegal Yet Justified, Collective Civil
Disobedience, Politicizing the Legal
However, when companies do resort to litigation or get involved in
criminal proceedings, they can rest assured that the prosecution
and judicial system will uphold their interests over the right of
public to access culture and knowledge, even when the irrationality
of the copyright system lies in plain sight, as it does in the case of
academic publishing. Let’s look at two examples:
On January 6, 2011, Aaron Swartz, a prominent programmer
and hacktivist, was arrested by the MIT campus police and U.S.
Secret Service on charges of having downloaded a large number
of academic articles from the JSTOR repository. While JSTOR, with
whom Swartz reached a settlement and to whom he returned the

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files, and, later, MIT, would eventually drop the charges, the federal
prosecution decided nonetheless to indict Swartz on thirteen
criminal counts, potentially leading to fifty years in prison and a
US$1 million fine. Under growing pressure by the prosecution
Swartz committed suicide on January 11, 2013.
Given his draconian treatment at the hands of the prosecution
and the absence of institutions of science and culture that would
stand up and justify his act on political grounds, much of Swartz’s
defense focused on trying to exculpate his acts, to make them less
infringing or less illegal than the charges brought against him had
claimed, a rational course of action in irrational circumstances.
However, this was unfortunately becoming an uphill battle as the
prosecution’s attention was accidentally drawn to a statement
written by Swartz in 2008 wherein he laid bare the dysfunctionality
of the academic publishing system. In his Guerrilla Open Access
Manifesto, he wrote: “The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly
being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. . . . Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their
colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at
Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite
universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global
South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.” After a no-­nonsense
diagnosis followed an even more clear call to action: “We need
to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing
networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access” (Swartz 2008).
Where a system has failed to change unjust laws, Swartz felt, the
responsibility was on those who had access to make injustice a
thing of the past.
Whether Swartz’s intent actually was to release the JSTOR repository remains subject to speculation. The prosecution has never
proven that it was. In the context of the legal process, his call to
action was simply taken as a matter of law and not for what it
was—­a matter of politics. Yet, while his political action was pre-

empted, others have continued pursuing his vision by committing
small acts of illegality on a massive scale. In June 2015 Elsevier won
an injunction against Library Genesis, the largest illegal repository
of electronic books, journals, and articles on the Web, and its
subsidiary platform for accessing academic journals, Sci-­hub. A
voluntary and noncommercial project of anonymous scientists
mostly from Eastern Europe, Sci-­hub provides as of end of 2015
access to more than 41 million academic articles either stored
in its database or retrieved through bypassing the paywalls of
academic publishers. The only person explicitly named in Elsevier’s
lawsuit was Sci-­hub’s founder Alexandra Elbakyan, who minced no
words: “When I was working on my research project, I found out
that all research papers I needed for work were paywalled. I was
a student in Kazakhstan at the time and our university was not
subscribed to anything” (Ernesto 2015). Being a computer scientist,
she found the tools and services on the internet that allowed her to
bypass the paywalls. At first, she would make articles available on
internet forums where people would file requests for the articles
they needed, but eventually she automated the process, making
access available to everyone on the open web. “Thanks to Elsevier’s
lawsuit, I got past the point of no return. At this time I either have
to prove we have the full right to do this or risk being executed like
other ‘pirates’ . . . If Elsevier manages to shut down our projects or
force them into the darknet, that will demonstrate an important
idea: that the public does not have the right to knowledge. . . .
Everyone should have access to knowledge regardless of their
income or affiliation. And that’s absolutely legal. Also the idea
that knowledge can be a private property of some commercial
company sounds absolutely weird to me” (Ernesto 2015).
If the issue of infringement is to become political, a critical mass
of infringing activity has to be achieved, access technologically
organized, and civil disobedience collectively manifested. Only in
this way do the illegal acts stand a chance of being transformed
into the legitimate acts.

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Where Law Was, there Politics Shall Be
And thus we have made a full round back to where we started. The
parallel development of liberalism, copyright, and capitalism has
resulted in a system demanding that the contemporary subject
act in accordance with two opposing tendencies: “more capitalist
than capitalist and more proletarian than proletariat” (Deleuze
and Guattari 1983, 34). Schizophrenia is, as Deleuze and Guattari
argue, a condition that simultaneously embodies two disjunctive
positions. Desire and blockage, flow and territory. Capitalism is
the constant decoding of social blockages and territorializations
aimed at liberating the production of desires and flows further
and further, only to oppose them at its extreme limit. It decodes
the old socius by means of private property and commodity
production, privatization and abstraction, the flow of wealth and
flows of workers (140). It allows contemporary subjects—­including
corporate entities such as the MIT Press or Sony—­to embrace their
contradictions and push them to their limits. But capturing them in
the orbit of the self-­expanding production of value, it stops them
at going beyond its own limit. It is this orbit that the law sanctions
in the present, recoding schizoid subjects into the inevitability of
capitalism. The result is the persistence of a capitalist reality antithetical to common interest—­commercial closed-­access academic
publishing—­and the persistence of a hyperproletariat—­an intellectual labor force that is too subsumed to organize and resist the
reality that thrives parasitically on its social function. It’s a schizoid
impasse sustained by a failed metaphor.
The revolutionary events of the Paris Commune of 1871, its mere
“existence” as Marx has called it,10 a brief moment of “communal
luxury” set in practice as Kristin Ross (2015) describes it, demanded
that, in spite of any circumstances and reservations, one takes a
side. And such is our present moment of truth.
Digital networks have expanded the potential for access and
created an opening for us to transform the production of knowledge and culture in the contemporary world. And yet they have
likewise facilitated the capacity of intellectual property industries

to optimize, to cut out the cost of printing and physical distribution.
Digitization is increasingly helping them to control access, expand
copyright, impose technological protection measures, consolidate
the means of distribution, and capture the academic valorization
process.
As the potential opening for universalizing access to culture and
knowledge created by digital networks is now closing, attempts at
private legal reform such as Creative Commons licenses have had
only a very limited effect. Attempts at institutional reform such as
Open Access publishing are struggling to go beyond a niche. Piracy
has mounted a truly disruptive opposition, but given the legal
repression it has met with, it can become an agent of change only if
it is embraced as a kind of mass civil disobedience. Where law was,
there politics shall be.
Many will object to our demand to replace the law with politicization. Transitioning from politics to law was a social achievement
as the despotism of political will was suppressed by legal norms
guaranteeing rights and liberties for authors; this much is true. But
in the face of the draconian, failed juridical rationality sustaining
the schizoid impasse imposed by economic despotism, these developments hold little justification. Thus we return once more to the
words of Aaron Swartz to whom we remain indebted for political
inspiration and resolve: “There is no justice in following unjust laws.
It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil
disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public
culture. . . . With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send
a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge—­we’ll
make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?” (Swartz 2008).

Notes
1

We initially named our project Public Library because we have developed it
as a technosocial project from a minimal definition that defines public library
as constituted by three elements: free access to books for every member of
a society, a library catalog, and a librarian (Mars, Zarroug and Medak, 2015).
However, this definition covers all public libraries and shadow libraries
complementing the work of public libraries in providing digital access. We have
thus decided to rename our project as Memory of the World, after our project’s

65

initial domain name. This is a phrase coined by Henri La Fontaine, whose men-

66

tion we found in Markus Krajewski’s Paper Machines (2011). It turned out that
UNESCO runs a project under the same name with the objective to preserve
valuable archives for the whole of humanity. We have appropriated that objective. Given that this change has happened since we drafted the initial version
of this text in 2015, we’ll call our project in this text with a double name Public
Library/Memory of the World.
2

Sony Pictures Entertainment became the owner of two (MGM, Columbia Pictures) out of eight Golden Age major movie studios (“Major Film Studio,” Wikipedia 2015).

3

In 2012 Sony Music Entertainment is one of the Big Three majors (“Record
Label,” Wikipedia 2015).

4

Since this anecdote was recounted by Marcell in his opening keynote in the
Terms of Media II conference at Brown University, we have received another
batch of takedown notices from the MIT Press. It seemed as no small irony,
because at the time the Terms of Media conference reader was rumored to be
distributed by the MIT Press.

5

“In law, authorship is a point of origination of a property right which, thereafter, like other property rights, will circulate in the market, ending up in the
control of the person who can exploit it most profitably. Since copyright serves
paradoxically to vest authors with property only to enable them to divest that
property, the author is a notion which needs only to be sustainable for an
instant” (Bently 1994).

6

For more on the formal freedom of the laborer to sell his labor-­power, see
chapter 6 of Marx’s Capital (1867).

7

For a more detailed account of the history of printing privilege in Great Britain,
but also the emergence of peer review out of the self-­censoring performed by
the Royal Academy and Académie de sciences in return for the printing privilege, see Biagioli 2002.

8

The transition of authorship from honorific to professional is traced in Woodmansee 1996.

9

Not all publishers are necessarily predatory. For instance, scholar-­led open-­
access publishers, such as those working under the banner of Radical Open
Access (http://radicaloa.disruptivemedia.org) have been experimenting with
alternatives to the dominant publishing models, workflows, and metrics, radicalizing the work of conventional open access, which has by now increasingly
become recuperated by big for-­profit publishers, who see in open access an
opportunity to assume the control over the economy of data in academia.
Some established academic publishers, too, have been open to experiments
that go beyond mere open access and are trying to redesign how academic
writing is produced, made accessible, and valorized. This essay has the good
fortune of appearing as a joint publication of two such publishers: Meson Press
and University of Minnesota Press.

10

“The great social measure of the Commune was its own working existence”
(Marx 1871).

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title=Sony_Corp._of_America_v._Universal_City_Studios,_Inc.&oldid=677390161.
Wischenbart, Rüdiger. 2015. “The Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry 2014.”
Wischenbart. Accessed October 18, 2015. http://www.wischenbart.com/upload/
Global-Ranking-of-the-Publishing-Industry_2014_Analysis.pdf.
Woodmansee, Martha. 1996. The Author, Art, and the Market: Rereading the History of
Aesthetics. New York: Columbia University Press.
World Wide Web Consortium. n.d.“W3C Mission.” Accessed October 28, 2015. http://
www.w3.org/Consortium/mission.



file sharing in Sekulic 2018


Sekulic
On Knowledge and Stealing
2018


# Dubravka Sekulic: On Knowledge and 'Stealing'

This text was originally published in [The
Funambulist](https://thefunambulist.net/) - Issue 17, May-June 2018
"Weaponized Infrastructure".

__

In 2003 artist Jackie Summell started a correspondence with Herman Wallace,
who at the time was serving a life sentence in solitary confinement in the
Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, by asking him “What kind of a house
does a man who has lived in a 6′ x 9′ cell for over thirty years dream of?”
(1) The Louisiana State Penitentiary, the largest maximum-security prison in
the US, besides inmate quarters and among other facilities includes a prison
plantation, Prison View Golf Course, and Angola Airstrip. The nickname Angola
comes from the former slave plantation purchased for a prison after the end of
the Civil War – and where Herman Wallace became a prisoner in 1971 upon
charges of armed robbery. He became politically active in the prison's chapter
of the Black Panther and campaigned for better conditions in Angola,
organizing petitions and hunger strikes against segregation, rape, and
violence. In 1973, together with Albert Woodfox, he was convicted of murder of
a prison guard and both were put in solitary confinement. Together with Robert
King, Wallace and Woodfox would become known as the Angola 3, the three prison
inmates who served the longest period in solitary confinement – 29, 41, and 43
years respectively. The House that Herman Built, Herman's virtual and
eventually physical dream house in his birth city of New Orleans grew from the
correspondence between Jackie and Herman. At one point, Jackie asked Herman to
make a list of the books he would have on the book shelf in his dream house,
the books which influenced his political awakening. At the time Jackie was a
fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, which supported acquisition
of the books and became the foundation of Herman's physical library on its
premises, waiting for his dream home to be built to relocate.

In 2013 the conviction against Herman Wallace was thrown out and he was
released from jail. Three days later he passed away. He never saw his dream
house built, nor took a book from a shelf in his library in Solitude, which
remained accessible to fellows and visitors until 2014. In 2014 Public
Library/Memory of the World (2) digitized Herman's library to place it online
thus making it permanently accessible to everyone with an Internet
connection(3). The spirit of Herman Wallace continued to live through the
collection shaping him – works by Marxists, revolutionaries, anarchists,
abolitionists, and civil rights activists, some of whom were also prisoners
during their lifetime. Many books from Herman's library would not be
accessible to those serving time, as access to knowledge for the inmate
population in the US is increasingly being regulated. A peak into the list of
banned books, which at one point included Michelle Alexander's The New Jim
Crow (The New Press, 2010), reveals the incentive of the ban was to prevent
access to knowledge that would allow inmates to understand their position in
society and the workings of the prison-industrial complex. It is becoming
increasingly difficult for inmates to have chance encounters with a book that
could change their lives; given access to knowledge they could see their
position in life from another perspective; they could have a moment of
revelation like the one Cle Sloan had. Sloan, a member of the Los Angeles gang
Bloods encountered his neighborhood Athens Park on a 1972 Los Angeles Police
Department 'Gang Territories' map in Mike Davis' book City of Quartz, which
made him understand gang violence in L.A. was a product of institutional
violence, structural racism, and systemic dispersal of community support
networks put in place by the Black Panther Party.

The books in Herman's library can be seen as a toolbox of “really useful
knowledge” for someone who has to conceive the notion of freedom. The term
“really useful knowledge” originated with workers' awareness of the need for
self-education in the early-19th century, describing a body of 'unpractical'
knowledge such as politics, economics, and philosophy, workers needed to
understand and change their position in society, and opposed 'useful
knowledge' – knowledge of 'practical' skills which would make them useful to
the employer. Like in the 19th century, sustaining the system relies on
continued exploitation of a population prevented from accessing, producing and
sharing knowledges needed to start to understand the system that is made to
oppress and to articulate a position from which they can act. Who controls the
networks of production and distribution to knowledge is an important issue, as
it determines which books are made accessible. Self-help and coloring books
are allowed and accessible to inmates so as to continue oppression and pacify
resistance. The crisis of access persists outside the prison walls with a
continuous decline in the number of public libraries and the books they offer
due to the double assault of austerity measures and a growing monopoly of the
corporate publishing industry.

Digital networks have incredible power to widely distribute content, and once
the (digital) content is out there it is relatively easy to share and access.
Digital networks can provide a solution for enclosure of knowledge and for the
oppressed, easier access to channels of distribution. At least that was the
promise – the Internet would enable a democratization of access. However,
digital networks have a significant capacity to centralize and control within
the realm of knowledge distribution, one look at the oligopoly of academic
publishing and its impact on access and independent production shows its
contrary.

In June 2015 Elsiver won an injunction against Library Genesis and its
subsidiary platform sci-hub.org, making it inaccessible in some countries and
via some commercial internet providers. Run by anonymous scientists mostly
from Eastern Europe, these voluntary and non-commercial projects are the
largest illegal repository of electronic books, journals, and articles on the
web (4). Most of the scientific articles collected in the repository bypassed
the paywalls of academic publishers using the solidary network of access
provided by those associated with universities rich enough to pay the
exuberant subscription fees. The only person named in the court case was
Alexandra Elbakyan, who revealed her identity as the creator of sci-hub.org,
and explained she was motivated by the lack of access: “When I was working on
my research project, I found out that all research papers I needed for work
were paywalled. I was a student in Kazakhstan at the time and our university
was not subscribed to anything.”(5) The creation of sci-hub.org made
scientific knowledge accessible to anyone, not just to members of wealthy
academic institutions. The act of acknowledging responsibility for sci-hub
transformed what was seen as the act of illegality (piracy) into the act of
civil disobedience. In the context of sci-hub and Library Genesis, both
projects from the periphery of knowledge production, “copyright infringement
opens on to larger questions about the legitimacy of the historic compromise –
if indeed there ever even was one – between the labor that produces culture
and knowledge and its commodification as codified in existing copyright
regulations.”(6) Here, disobedience and piracy have an equalizing effect on
the asymmetries of access to knowledge.

In 2008, programmer and hacktivist Aaron Swartz published Guerilla Open
Access Manifesto triggered by the enclosure of scientific knowledge production
of the past, often already part of public domain, via digitization. “The
world's entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in
books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful
private corporations […] We need to download scientific journals and upload
them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.”(7)
On January 6, 2011, the MIT police and the US Secret Service arrested Aaron
Swartz on charges of having downloaded a large number of scientific articles
from one of the most used and paywalled database. The federal prosecution
decided to show the increasingly nervous publishing industry the lengths they
are willing to go to protect them by indicting Swartz on 13 criminal counts.
With a threat of 50 years in prison and US$1 million fine, Aaron committed
suicide on January 11, 2013. But he left us with an assignment – if you have
access, you have a responsibility to share with those who do not; “with enough
of us, around the world, we'll not just send a strong message opposing the
privatization of knowledge — we'll make it a thing of the past. Will you join
us?” (8) He pointed to an important issue – every new cycle of technological
development (in this case the move from paper to digital) brings a new threat
of enclosure of the knowledge in the public domain.

While “the core and the periphery adopt different strategies of opposition to
the inequalities and exclusions [digital] technologies start to reproduce”
some technologies used by corporations to enclose can be used to liberate
knowledge and make it accessible. The existence of projects such as Library
Genesis, sci-hub, Public Library/Memory of the World, aaaarg.org, monoskop,
and ubuweb, commonly known as shadow libraries, show how building
infrastructure for storing, indexing, and access, as well as supporting
digitization, can not only be put to use by the periphery, but used as a
challenge to the normalization of enclosure offered by the core. The people
building alternative networks of distribution also build networks of support
and solidarity. Those on the peripheries need to 'steal' the knowledge behind
paywalls in order to fight the asymmetries paywalls enforce – peripheries
“steal” in order to advance. Depending on the vantage point, digitization of a
book can be stealing, or liberating it to return the knowledge (from the dusty
library closed stacks) back into circulation. “Old” knowledge can teach new
tricksters a handful of tricks.

In 2015 I realized none of the architecture students of the major European
architecture schools can have a chance encounter with Architecture and
Feminisms or Sexuality and Space, nor with many books on similar topics
because they were typically located in the library’s closed stacks. Both books
were formative and in 2005, as a student I went to great lengths to gain
access to them. The library at the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade, was
starved of books due to permanent financial crisis, and even bestsellers such
as Rem Koolhaas' S, M, L, XL were not available, let alone books that were
focused on feminism and architecture. At the time, the Internet could inform
that edited volumes such as Architecture and Feminism and Sexuality and Space
existed but nothing more. To satisfy my curiosity, and help me write a paper,
a friend sent – via another friend – her copies from London to Belgrade, which
I photocopied, and returned. With time, I graduated to buying my own second
hand copies of both books, which I digitized upon realizing access to them
still relied on access to a well-stocked specialist library. They became the
basis for my growing collection on feminism/gender/space I maintain as an
amateur librarian, tactically digitizing books to contribute to the growing
struggle to make architecture more equitable as both a profession and an
effect in space.

At the end, a confession, and an anecdote – since 2015, I have tried to
digitize a book a week and every year, I manage to digitize around 20 books,
so one can say I am not particularly good at meeting my goals. The books I do
digitize are related to feminism, space, race, urban riots, and struggle, and
I choose them for their (un)availability and urgency. Most of them are
published in the 1970s and 1980s, though some were published in the 1960s and
1990s. Some I bought as former library books, digitized on a DIY book scanner,
and uploaded to the usual digital repositories. It takes two to four hours to
make a neat and searchable PDF scan of a book. As a PDF, knowledge production
usually under the radar or long out of print becomes more accessible. One of
the first books I digitized was Robert Goodman's After the Planners, a
critique of urban planning and the limits of alternate initiatives in cities
written in the late 1960s. A few years after I scanned it, online photos from
a conference drew my attention –the important, white male professor was
showing the front page of After the Planners on his slide. I realized fast the
image had a light signature of the scanner I had used. While I do not know if
this act of digitization made a dent or was co-opted, seeing the image was a
small proof that digitization can bring books back into circulation and access
to them might make a difference – or that access to knowledge can be a weapon.



[Dubravka Sekulic](https://www.making-futures.com/contributor/sekulic/) writes
about the production of space. She is an amateur-librarian at Public
Library/Memory of the World, where she maintains feminist, and space/race
collections. During Making Futures School, Dubravka will be figuring out the
future of education (on all things spatial) together with [Elise
Hunchuck](https://www.making-futures.com/contributor/hunchuck/), [Jonathan
Solomon](https://www.making-futures.com/contributor/solomon/) and [Valentina
Karga](https://www.making-futures.com/contributor/karga/).

__

This text was originally published in The Funambulist - Issue 17, May-June
2018 "Weaponized Infrastrucuture".  [A pdf version of it can be downloaded
here.](https://www.making-futures.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05
/Dubravka_Sekulic-On_Knowledge_and_Stealing.pdf)

__

Notes:

(1) For more on the project Herman’s House. Accessed 6 April 2018.


(2) Public Library is a project which has been since 2012 developing and
publicly supporting scenarios for massive disobedience against the current
regulation of production and circulation of knowlde and culture in the digital
realm. See: ‘Memory of the World’. Accessed 7 April 2018.


(3) Herman's library can be accessed at[
http://herman.memoryoftheworld.org/](http://herman.memoryoftheworld.org/) More
on the context of digitization see: ‘Herman’s Library’. Memory of the World
(blog), 28 October 2014. /hermans-library/>, and ‘Public Library. Rethinking the Infrastructures of
Knowledge Production’. Memory of the World (blog), 30 October 2014.
the-infrastructures-of-knowledge-production/.>

(4) For more on shadow libraries and library genesis see: Bodo, Balazs.
‘Libraries in the Post-Scarcity Era’. SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester, NY:
Social Science Research Network, 10 June 2015.


(5) ‘Sci-Hub Tears Down Academia’s “Illegal” Copyright Paywalls’. TorrentFreak
(blog), 27 June 2015. illegal-copyright-paywalls-150627/.>

(6) For the schizophrenia of the current model of the corporate enclosure of
the scientific knowledge see: Mars, Marcell and Tomislav Medak, The System of
a Takedown, forthcoming, 2018

(7) Aaron Swartz. Guerilla Open Access Manifesto. Accessed 7 April 2018.[
http://archive.org/details/GuerillaOpenAccessManifesto.](http://archive.org/details/GuerillaOpenAccessManifesto.)

(8) Ibid.

(9) Mars, Marcell and Tomislav Medak, The System of a Takedown, forthcoming,
2018.

(10) See ‘In Solidarity with Library Genesis and Sci-Hub’.
http://custodians.online. Accessed 7 April 2018.





file sharing in Sollfrank & Kleiner 2012


Sollfrank & Kleiner
Telekommunisten
2012


Dmytri Kleiner
Telekommunisten

Berlin, 20 November 2012

[00:12]
My name is Dmytri Kleiner. I work with Telekommunisten, which is an art
collective based in Berlin that investigates the social relations in bettering
communication technologies.

[00:24]
Peer-To-Peer Communism

[00:29]
Cornelia Sollfrank: I would like to start with the theory, which I think is
very strong, and which actually informs the practice that you are doing. For
me it's like the background where the practice comes from. And I think the
most important and well-known book or paper you've written is The
Telekommunist Manifesto. This is something that you authored personally,
Dmytri Kleiner. It's not written by the Telekommunisten. And I would like to
ask you what the main ideas and the main principles are that you explain, and
maybe you come up with a few things, and I have some bullet points here, and
then we can discuss.

[01:14]
The book has two sections. The first section is called "Peer-To-Peer Communism
Vs. The Client-Server Capitalist State," and that actually explains – using
the history of the Internet as a sort of a basis – it explains the
relationship between modes of production on one hand, like capitalism and
communism, with network topologies on the other hand, mesh networks and star
networks. [01:39] And it explains why the original design of the Internet,
which was supposed to be a decentralised system where everybody could
communicate with everybody without any kind of mediation, or control or
censorship – why that has been replaced with centralised, privatised
platforms, from an economic basis. [02:00] So that the need for capitalist
capture of user data, and user interaction, in order to allow investors to
recoup profits, is the driving force behind centralisation, and so it explains
that.

[02:15]
Copyright Myth

[02:19]
C.S.: The framework of these whole interviews is the relation between cultural
production, artistic production in particular, and copyright, as a regulatory
mechanism. In one of your presentations, you mention, or you made the
assumption or the claim, that the fact that copyright is there to protect, or
to foster or enable artistic cultural production is a myth. Could you please
elaborate a bit on that?

[02:57]
Sure. That's the second part of the manifesto. The second part of the
manifesto is called "A Contribution to the Critique of Free Culture." And in
that title I don't mean to be critiquing the practice of free culture, which I
actively support and participate in. [03:13] I am critiquing the theory around
free culture, and particularly as it's found in the Creative Commons
community. [03:20] And this is one of the myths that you often see in that
community: that copyright somehow was created in order to empower artists, but
it's gone wrong somehow, at some point it's got wrong. [03:34] It went in the
wrong direction and now it needs to be corrected. This is a kind of a
plotline, so to speak, in a lot of creative commons oriented community
discussion about copyright. [03:46] But actually, of course, the history of
copyright is the same as the history of labour and capital and markets in
every other field. So just like the kind of Lockean idea of property
attributes the product of the worker's labour to the worker, so that the
capitalist can appropriate it, so it commodifies the products of labour,
copyright was created for exactly the same reasons, at exactly the same time,
as part of exactly the same process, in order to create a commodity form of
knowledge, so that knowledge could play in markets. [04:21] That's why
copyright was invented. That was the social reason why it needed to exist.
Because as industrial capitalism was manifesting, they required a way to
commodify knowledge work in the same way they commodified other kinds of
labour. [04:37] So the artist was only given the authorship of their work in
exactly the same way as the factory worker supposedly owns the product of
their labour. [04:51] Because the artist doesn't have the means of production,
so the artist has to give away that product, and actually legitimizes the
appropriation of the product of labour from the labourer, whether it's a
cultural labourer or a physical labourer.

[05:07]
(Intellectual) Labour

[05:10]
C.S.: And why do you think that this myth is so persistent? Or, who created
it, and for what reasons?

[05:18]
I think that a lot of kind of liberal criticism sort of starts that way. I
mean, I haven't really researched this, so that's kind of an open question
that you are asking, I don’t really have a specific position. [05:30] But my
impression is always that people that come at things from a liberal critique,
not a critical critique, sort of assume that things were once good and now
they’re bad. That’s kind of a common sort of assumption. [05:42] So instead of
looking at the core structural origin of something, they sort of have an
assumption that at some point this must have served a useful function or it
wouldn’t exist. And so therefore it must have been good and now it’s bad.
[05:57] And also because of the rhetoric, of course, just like the Lockean
rhetoric of property: give the ownership of the product of labour to the
worker. Ideologically speaking, it’s been framed this way since the beginning.
[06:14] But of course, everybody understands that in the market system the
worker is only given the rights to own their labour if they can sell it.

[06:22]
Author Function

[06:26]
C.S.: Based on this assumption, developed a certain function of the author.
Could you please elaborate on this a bit more? The invention of the individual
author.

[06:39]
The author – in a certain point of history, in line of the development of, you
know, as modern society – capitalist industrial society – began to emerge, so
did with it the author. [06:53] Previous to this, the concept of the author
was not nearly so engrained. So the author hasn't always existed in this
static sense, as unique source of new creativity and new knowledge, creating
work ex nihilo from their imagination. [07:10] Previous to this there was
always a more social understanding of authorship, where authors were in a
continuous cultural dialogue with previous authors, contemporary authors,
later authors. [07:20] And authors would frequently reuse themes, plots,
characters, from other authors. For instance, Goethe’s Faust is a good example
that has been used by authors before and after Goethe, in their own stories.
And just like the Homeric traditions of ancient literature. [07:42] Culture
was always seen to be much about dialogue, where each generation of authors
would contribute to a common creative stock of characters, plots, ideas. But
that, of course, is not conducive to making knowledge into a commodity that
can be sold in the market. [08:00] So as we got into a market-based society,
in order to create this idea of intellectual property, of copyright, creating
something that can be sold on the market, the artist and the author had to
become individuals all of a sudden. [08:16] Because this kind of iterative
social dialogue doesn’t work well in a commodity form, because how do you
properly buy it and sell it?

[08:28]
Anti-Copyright

[08:33]
C.S.: The Next concept I would like to talk about is the anti-copyright. Could
you please explain a little bit what it actually is, and where it comes from?

[08:46]
From the very beginning of copyright many artists and authors rejected it from
ideological grounds, right from the beginning. [08:35] Because, of course,
what was now plagiarism, what was now illegal, and a violation of intellectual
property had been in many cases traditional practices that writers took for
granted forever. [09:09] The ability to reuse characters; the ability to take
plots, themes and ideas from other authors and reuse them. [09:16] So many
artists rejected this idea from the beginning. And this was the idea of
copyright. But, of course, because the dominant system that was emerging – the
market capitalist system – required the commodity form to make a living, this
was always a marginal community. [09:37] So it was radical artists, like the
Situationist International, or artists that had strong political beliefs, the
American folk musicians like Woody Guthrie – another famous example. [09:47]
And all of this people were not only against intellectual property. They were
not only against the commodification of cultural work. They were against the
commodification of work, period. [09:57] There was a proletarian movement.
They were very much against capitalism as well as intellectual property.

[10:04]
Examples of Anti-Copyright

[10:08]
C.S.: Could you give also some examples in the artworld for this
anti-copyright, or in the cultural world?

[10:15]
DK: Well, you know Lautréamont’s famous text, “plagiarism is necessary: it
takes a wrong idea and replaces it with the right idea.” [10:29] And
Lautréamont was a huge influence on a bunch of radical French artists
including, most famously, the Situationist International, who published their
journal with no copyright, denying copyright. [10:44] I guess that Woody
Guthrie has a famous thing that I quote in some article or other, maybe even
in the [Telekommunist] Manifesto, I don’t remember if it made it in – where he
expressly says, he openly supports people performing, copying, modifying his
songs. That was a note that he made in a song book of his. [11:11] And many
others – the whole practice is associated with communises, from Dada to
Neoism. [11:18] Much later, up to the mid-1990s, this was the dominant form.
So from the birth of copyright, up to the mid-1990s, the intellectual property
was being questioned on the radical fringes of artists. [11:34] For me
personally, as an artist, I started to become involved with artists like
Negativland and Plunderpalooza – sorry, Plunderpalooza was an act we did;
Plunderphonics is an album by John Oswald – the newest movements and the
festival of plagiarism. [11:51] This was the area that I personally
experienced in the 1990s, but it has a long history going back to Lautréamont,
if not earlier.

[12:01]
On the Fringe

[12:05]
C.S.: But you already mentioned the term fringe, so this kind of
anti-copyright attitude automatically implied that it could only happen on the
fringe, not in the actual cultural world.

[12:15]
Exactly. It is fundamentally incompatible with capitalism, because it denies
the value-form of culture. [12:22] And without the commodity form, it can’t
make a living, it has nothing to sell in the market. Because it’s not allowed
to sell on the market, it’s necessarily marginal. [12:34] So it’s necessarily
people who support themselves through “non-art” income, by other kinds of
work, or the small percentage of artists that can be supported by cultural
funding or universities, which is, you know, a relatively small group compared
to the proper cultural industries that are supported by copyright licensing.
[12:54] That includes the major movie houses, the major record labels, the
major publishing houses. Which is, you know, in orders of magnitude, a larger
number of artists.

[13:05]
Anti-Copyright Attitude

[13:10]
C.S.: So what would you say are the two, three, main characteristics of the
anti-copyright attitude?

[13:16]
Well, it completely rejects copyright as being legitimate. That’s a complete
denial of copyright. And usually it’s a denial of the existence of a unique
author as well. [13:28] So one of the things that is very characteristic is
the blurring of the distinction between producer and consumer. [13:37] So that
art is considered to be a dialogue, an interactive process where every
producer is also a consumer of art. So everybody is an artist in that sense,
everybody potentially can be. And it’s an ongoing process. [13:52] There’s no
distinction between producer and consumer. It’s just a transient role that one
plays in a process.

[13:59]
C.S.: And in that sense it relates back to the earlier ideas of cultural
production.

[14:04]
Exactly, to the pre-commodity form of culture.

[14:11]
Copyleft

[14:15]
C.S.: Could you please explain what copyleft is, where it comes from.

[14:20]
Copyleft comes out of the software community, the hacker community. It doesn’t
come out of artistic practice per se. And it comes out of the need to share
software. [14:30] Famously, Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation
started this project called GNU (GNU’s Not Unix), which is the, kind of, very
famous and important project. [14:44] And they publish the license called the
GPL, which sort of defined the copyleft idea. And copyleft is a very clever
kind of a hack, as they say in the hacker community. [14:53] What it does is
that it asserts copyright, full copyright, in order to provide a public
license, a free license. And it requires that any derivative work also carries
the same license. That’s what is different about it to anti-copyright. It’s
that, rather than denying copyright outright, copyleft is a copyright license
– it is a copyright – but then the claim is used in order to publicly make the
work available to anybody that wants it under very open terms. [15:28] The key
requirement, the distinctive requirement, is that any derivative work must
also be licenced under the same terms, under the copyleft terms. [15:38] This
is what we call viral, in that it perpetuates license. This is very clever,
because it takes copyright law, and it uses copyright law to create
intellectual property freedom, within a certain context. [15:55] But the
difference is, of course, that we are talking about software. And software,
economically speaking, from the point of view of the way software developers
actually make a living, is very different. [16:11] Because within the
productive cycle – the productive cycle can be said to have two phases,
sometimes called "department one" and "department two" in Marxian language or
in classical political economics. Producer’s goods and consumer’s goods; or
capital’s goods and consumer's goods models. [16:17] The idea is that some
goods are produced not for consumers but for producers. And these goods are
called capital. So they are goods that are used in production. And because
they are used in production, it’s not as important for capitalists to make a
profit on their circulation because they are input to production. [16:47] They
make their profits up stream, by actually using those goods in production, and
then creating goods that can be sold to the masses, circulated to the masses.
[16:56] And so because culture – art and culture – is normally a “department
two” good, consumer’s good, it’s completely, fundamentally incompatible with
capitalism because capitalism requires the capture of profits and the
circulation of consumer’s goods. But because software is largely a “department
one” good, producer’s good, it has no incompatibility with capitalism at all.
[17:18] In fact, capitalists very much like having their capital costs
reduced, because the vast majority of capitalists do not make commercial
software – license it. That’s only a very small class of capitalists. For the
vast majority of capitalists, the availability of free software as an input to
their production is a wonderful thing. [17:39] So this creates a sort of a
paradox, where under capitalism, only capital can be free. And because
software is capital, free software, and the GNU project, the Linux and the
vanilla projects exploded and became huge. [17:39] So, unlike the marginal-by-
necessity anti-copyright, free software became a mass movement, that has a
billion dollar industry, that has conferences all over the world that are
attended by tens of thousands of people. And everybody is for it. It’s this
really great big thing. [18:26] So it’s been rather different than
anti-copyright in term of its place in society. It’s become very prominent, very
successful. But, unfortunately – and I guess this is where we have to go next
– the reason why it is successful is because software is a producer’s good,
not a consumer’s good.

[18:38]
Copyleft Criticism

[18:42]
C.S.: So what is your basic criticism of copyleft?

[18:47]
I have no criticism of copyleft, except for the fact that some people think
that the model can be expanded into culture. It can’t be, and that’s the
problem. It's that a lot people from the arts community then kind of came back
to this original idea of questioning copyright through free software. [19:12]
So they maybe had some relationship with the original anti-copyright
tradition, or sometimes not at all. They are fresh out of design school, and
they never had any relationship with the radical tradition of anti-copyright.
And they encounter free software – they are like, yeah, that's great. [19:29]
And the spirit of sharing and cooperation inspires them. And they think that
the model can be taken from free software and applied to art and artists as
well, just like that. [19:41] But of course, there is a problem, because in a
capitalist society there has to be some economic sustainability behind the
practice, and because free culture modelled out of the GPL can’t work, because
the artists can’t make a living that way. [20:02] While capital will fund free
software, because they need free software – it’s a producer’s good, it’s input
to their production – capital has no need for free art. So they have also no
need to finance free art. [20:15] So if they can’t be financed by capital,
that automatically gives them a very marginal role in today’s society. [20:19]
Because that means that it has to be funded by something other than capital.
And those means are – back to the anti-copyright model – those are either non-
art income, meaning you do some other kind of work to self-finance your
artistic production, or the relatively small amount of public cultural
financing that is available – or now we have new things, like crowd funding –
all these  kinds of things that create some opportunities. But still
marginally small compared to the size of the capitalist economy. [20:52] So
the only criticism of copyleft is that it is inapplicable to cultural
production.

[21:00]
Copy-left and cultural production

[21:04]
C.S.: Why this principle of free software production, GPL principles, cannot
be applied to cultural production? Just again, to really point this out.

[21:20]
The difference is really the difference between “department one” goods,
producer's goods, and “department two” goods, consumer’s goods. [21:27] It’s
that capitalists, which obviously control the vast majority of investment in
this economy – so the vast majority of money that is spent to allow people to
realise projects of any kind. The source of this money is capital investment.
[21:42] And capital is happy to invest in producer’s goods, even if they are
free. Because they need these goods. So they have no requirement to seek these
goods. [21:53] If you are running a company like Amazon, you are not making
any money selling Linux, you are making money selling web services, books and
other kinds of derivative products. You need free software to run your data
centre, to run your computer. [22:08] So the cost of software to you is a
cost, and so you're happy to have free software and support it. Because it
makes a lot more sense for you to contribute to some project that it’s also
used by five other companies. [22:21] And in the end all of you have this tool
that you can run on your computer, and run your business with, than actually
either buying a license from some company, which can be expensive, inflexible,
and you can't control it, and if it doesn't work the way you want, you cannot
change it. [22:36] So free software has a great utility for producers. That's
why it's a capital good, a producer's good, a "department one" good. [22:45]
But art and culture do not have the same economic role. Capital is not
interested in developing free culture and free art. They don't need it, they
don't do anything with it. And the capitalist that produces art and culture
requires it to have a commodity form, which is what copyright is. [23:00] So
they require a form that they can sell on the market, which requires it to
have the exclusive, non-reproducible commodity form – that copyright was
developed in order to commodify culture. [23:14] So that is why the copyleft
tradition won't work for free culture – because even though free culture and
anti-copyright predates it, it predates it as a radical fringe. And the
radical fringe isn't supported by capital. It's supported, as we said, by
outside income, non-art income, and other kind of things like small cultural
funds.

[23:38]
Creative Commons

[23:42]
C.S.: In the last ten years we have seen new business models that very much
depend on free content as well. Could you please elaborate on this a bit?

[23:56]
Well, that’s the thing. Now we have the kind of Web 2.0/Facebook world.
[24:00] The entire copyright law – the so-called "good copyright" that
protected artists – was all based on the idea of the mechanical copy. And the
mechanical copy made a lot of sense in the printing press era where, if you
had some intellectual property, you could license it through mechanical
copies. So every time it was copied, somebody owed you a royalty. Very simple.
[24:26] But in a Web 2.0 world, where we have YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and
things like that, this doesn't really work very well. Because if you post
something online and then you need to get paid a royalty every time it gets
copied (and it gets copied millions of times), this becomes very impractical.
[24:44] And so this is where the Creative Commons really comes in. Because the
Creative Commons comes in just exactly at this time – as the Internet is kind
of bursting out of its original military and NGO roots, and really hitting the
general public. At the same time free software is something that is becoming
better known, and inspiring more people – so the ideas of questioning
copyright are becoming more prominent. [25:16] So Creative Commons seizes on
this kind of principles approach that anti-copyright and copyleft take. And
again, one of the single most important things about anti-copyright and
copyleft is that in both cases the freedom that they are talking about – the
free culture that they represent – is the freedom of the consumer to become
the producer. It's the denial of the distinction between consumer and
producer. [25:41] So even though the Creative Commons has a lot of different
licenses, including some that are GPL compatible – they're approved for free
cultural work, or whatever it's called – there is one license in particular
that makes up the vast majority of the works in the Creative Commons, one
license in particular which is like the signature license of the Creative
Commons – it's the non-commercial license. And this is obviously... The
utility of that is very clear because, as we said, artists can't make a living
in a copyleft sense. [26:18] In order for artists to make a living in the
capitalist system, they have to be able to negotiate non-free rights with
their publishers. And if they can't do that, they simply can't make a living.
At least, not in the mainstream community. There is a certain small place for
artists to make a living in the alternative and fringe elements of the
artworld. [26:42] But if you are talking about making a movie, a novel, a
record, then you at some point are going to need to negotiate a contract with
the publisher. Which means, you're going to have to be able negotiate non-free
terms. [27:00] So what non-commercial [licensing] does, is that it allows
people to share your stuff, making you more famous, getting more people to
know you – building its value, so to speak. But they can't actually do
anything commercial with it. And if they want to do anything commercial with
it, they have to come back to you and they have to negotiate a non-free
license. [27:19] So this is very practical, because it solves a lot of
problems for artists that want to make work available online in order to get
better known, but still want to eventually, at some point in the future,
negotiate non-free terms with a publishing company. [27:34] But while it's
very practical, it fundamentally violates the idea that copyleft and
anti-copyright set out to challenge – and this is distinction between the producer
and the consumer. Because of this, the consumer cannot become the producer.
And that is the criticism of the Creative Commons. [27:52] That's why I want
to talk about this thing, I often say, a tragedy in three parts. The first
part is a tragedy because it has to remain fringe, because of its complete
incompatibility with the dominant capitalism. [28:04] The second part,
copyleft, is a tragedy because while it works great for software, it can't and
it won't work for art. [28:10] And the third part is a tragedy because it
actually undermines the whole idea and brings the author back to the surface,
back from the dead. But the author kind of remerges as a sort of useful idiot,
because the "some rights reserved" are basically the rights to sell your
intellectual property to the publisher in exactly the same way as the early
industrial factory worker would have sold their labour to the factory.

[28:36]
C.S.: And that creates by no means a commons.

[28:41]
It by no means creative a commons, right. Because a primary function of a
commons is that it would be available for use by others producers, and the
Creative Commons isn't because you don't have any right to create your own
work to make a living from the works in the commons – because of the non-
commercial clause that covers a large percentage of the works there.

[29:09]
Peer Production License

[29:13]
C.S.: But you were thinking of an alternative. What is the alternative?

[29:19]
There is no easy alternative. The fact is that, so long as we have a cultural
industry that is dominated by market capitalism, then the majority of artists
working within it will have to work in that form. We can't arbitrarily, as
artists, simply pretend that the industry as it is doesn't exist. [29:41] But
at the same time we can hope that alternatives will develop – that alternative
ways of producing and sharing cultural works will develop. So that the
copyfarleft license... [29:52] I describe the Creative Commons as
copyjustright. It's not copyright, it's copyjustright – you can tune it, you
can tailor it to your specific interests or needs. But it is still copyright,
just a more fine-tuneable copyright that is better for a Web 2.0 distribution
model. [30:12] The alternative is what I call copyfarleft, which also starts
off with the Creative Commons non-commercial model for the simple reason that,
as we discussed, if you are an actually existing artist in the actually
existing cultural industries of today, you are going to have to make a living,
on the most part, by selling non-free works to publishers, non-free licenses
to publishers. That's simply the way the industry works. [30:37] But in order
not to close the door on another industry developing – a different kind of
industry developing – after denying commercial works blankly (so it has a non-
commercial clause), then it expressly allows commercial usage by non-
capitalist organisations, independent cooperatives, non-profits –
organisations that are not structured around investment capital and wage
labour, and so forth; that are not for-profit organisations that are enriching
private individuals and appropriating value from workers. [31:15] So this
allows you to succeed, at least potentially succeed as a commercial artist in
the commercial world as it is right now. But at the same time it doesn't close
the door on another kind of community from developing, other kind of industry
from developing. [31:35] And we have to understand that we are not going to be
able to get rid of the cultural industries as they exist today, until we have
another set of institutions that can play those same roles. They're not going
to magically vanish, and be magically replaced. [31:52] We have to, at the
same time as those exist, build up new kind of institutions. We have to think
of new ways to produce and share cultural works. And only when we've done
that, will the cultural institutions as they are today potentially go away.
[32:09] So the copyfarleft license tries to bridge that gap by allowing the
commons to grow, but at the same time allowing the commons producers to make a
living as they normally would within the regular cultural industry. [32:25]
Some good examples where you can see something like this – might be clear –
are some of the famous novelists like Wu Ming or Cory Doctorow, people that
have done very well by publishing their works under Creative Commons non-
commercial licenses. [32:42] Wu Ming's books, which are published, I believe,
by Random House or some big publisher, are available under a Creative Commons
non-commercial license. So if you want to download them for personal use, you
can. But if you are Random House, and you want to publish them and put them on
bookstores, and manufacture them in huge supply, you have to negotiate non-
free terms with Wu Ming. And this allows Wu Ming to make a living by licensing
their work to Random House. [33:10] But while it does do that, what it doesn't
do is allow that book to be manufactured any other way. So that means that
this capitalist form of production becomes the only form that you can
commercially produce this book – except for independents, just for their own
personal use. [33:25] Whereas if their book was instead under a copyfarleft
license, what we call the "peer production" licence, then not only could they
continue to work as they do, but also potentially their book could be made
available through other means as well. Like, independent workers cooperatives
could start manufacturing it, selling it and distributing it locally in their
own areas, and make a commercial living out of it. And then perhaps if those
were to actually succeed, then they could grow and start to provide some of
the functions that capitalist institutions do now.

[34:00]
Miscommunication Technology

[34:05]
The artworks that we do are more related to the topologies side of the theory
– the relationship between network topologies, communication topologies, and
the social relations embedded in communication systems with the political
economy and economic ideas, and people's relationships to each other. [34:24]
The Miscommunication Technologies series has been going on for a quite a while
now, I guess since 2006 or so. Most of the works were pretty obscure, but the
more recent works are getting more attention and better known. And I guess
that the ones that we're talking about and exhibiting the most are deadSwap,
Thimbl and R15N, and these all attempt to explore some of the ideas.

[35:01]
deadSwap

[35:06]
deadSwap is a file sharing system. It's playing on the kind of
circumventionist technologies that are coming out of the file sharing
community, and this idea that technology can make us be able to evade the
legal and economic structures. So deadSwap wants to question this by creating
a very extreme parody of what it would actually mean to really be private.
[35:40] It is a file sharing system, that in order to be private it only
exists on one USB stick. And this USB stick is hidden in public space, and its
user send text messages to an anonymous SMS gateway in order to tell other
users where they've hidden the stick. When you have the stick you can upload
and download files to it – it's a file sharing system. It has a Wiki and file
space, essentially. Then you hide the stick somewhere, and you text the system
and it forwards your message to the next person that is waiting to share data.
And this continues like that, so then that person can share data on it, they
hide it somewhere and send an SMS to the system which then it gets forwarded
to the next person. [36:28] This work serves a few different functions at
once. First, it starts to get people to understand networks and all the basic
components. The participants in the artwork actually play a network node – you
are passing on information as if you are part of a network. So this gets
people to start thinking about how networks work, because they are playing the
network. [36:52] But on the other hand, it also tries to get cross the idea
that the behaviour of the user is much important than the technology, when it
comes to security and privacy. So how difficult it is – the system is very
private – how difficult it is to actually use it, not lose the stick, not to
get discovered. [37:11] It's actually very difficult to actually use. Even
though it seems so simple, normally people lose the USB key within like an
hour or two of starting the system. It doesn't... All the secret agent manuals
that say, be a secret agent spy – isn't easy, and it tries to get this across,
that actually it's not nearly as easy to evade the economic and political
dimensions of our society as it should be. [37:45] Maybe it's better that we
politically fight to avoid having to share information only by hiding USB
sticks in public space, sticking around and acting like spies.

[37:57]
Thimbl

[38:02]
Thimbl is another work, and it is completely online. This work in some ways
has become a signature work for us, even though it doesn't really have any
physical presence. It's a purely conceptual work. [38:15] One of the arguments
that the Manifesto makes is that the Internet was a fully distributed social
media platform – that's what the Internet was, and then it was replaced,
because of capitalism and because of the economic logic of the market, with
centralised communication platforms like Twitter and Facebook. [38:40] And
despite that, within the free software community and the hacker community,
there's the opposite myth, just like the copyright myth. There's this idea
that we are moving towards decentralised software. [38:54] You see people like
Eben Moglen making this point a lot, when he says, now we have Facebook, but
because of FreedomBox, Diaspora and a laundry list of other projects, we're
eventually going to reach a decentralised software. [39:07] But this makes two
assumptions that are incorrect. The first is that we are starting with
centralised media and we are going to decentralised media, which actually is
incorrect. We started with a decentralised social media platform and we moved
to a centralised one. [39:40] And the second thing that is incorrect is that
we can move from a centralised platform to a decentralised platform if we just
create the right technology, so the problem is technological. [39:34] With
Thimbl we wanted to make the point that that wasn't true, that the problem was
actually political. The technological problem is trivial. The computer
sciences have been around forever. The problem is political. [39:43] The
problem is that these systems will not be financed by capital, because capital
requires profit in order to sustain itself. In order to capture profit it
needs to have control of user interaction and user's data. [39:57] To
illustrate this, we created a micro-blogging platform like Twitter, but using
a protocol of the 1970s called Finger. So we've used the protocol that has
been around since the 1970s and made a micro-blogging platform out of it –
fully, totally distributed micro-blogging platform. And then promoted it as if
it was a real thing, with videos and website, and stuff like that. But of
course, there is no way to sign up for it, because it's just a concept.
[40:22] And then there are some scripts that other people wrote that actually
made it to a certain degree real. For us it was just a concept, but then
people actually took it and made working implementations of it, and there are
several working implementations of Thimbl. [40:38] But the point remains that
the problem is not technical, the problem is political. So we came up with
this idea of the economic fiction, or the social fiction. [40:47] Because in
science fiction you often have situations where something that eventually
became a real technology was originally introduced in a fictional context as a
science fiction. [40:59] The reason it's fictional is because science at the
time was not able to create the thing, but as science transcends its
limitations, what was once fictional technology became real technology. So we
have this idea of a social or economic fiction. [41:15] Thimbl is not science
fiction. Technologically speaking it demonstrably works – it's a demonstrably
working concept. The problem is economic. [41:23] For Thimbl to become a
reality, society has to transcend its economic limitations – it's social and
economic limitations in order to find ways to create communication systems
that are not simply funded by the capture of user data and information, which
Thimbl can't do because it is a distributive system. You can't control the
users, you can't know who is using it or what they are doing, because it's
fully distributed.

[41:47]
R15N

[41:52]
The R15N has elements of both of those things. We wanted to create a system
that was basically drawn a little from deadSwap, but I wanted to take out the
secret agent element of it. Because I was really... [42:08] The first place it
was commissioned to be in was actually in Tel Aviv, in Israel, the [Israeli]
Center for Digital Art. And this kind of spy aesthetic that deadSwap had, I
didn't think it would be an appropriate aesthetic in that context. [42:22] The
idea that of trying to convince young people in a poor area in Tel Aviv to act
like spies and hide USB sticks in public space didn't seem like a good idea.
[42:34] So I wanted to go the other way, and I wanted to really emphasise the
collaboration, and create a kind of system that is pretty much totally
impossible to use, but only if you really cooperate you can make it work.
[42:45] So I took another old approach called the telephone tree. I don't know
if you remember telephone trees. Telephone trees existed for years before the
Internet, when schools and army reserves needed to be quickly dispatched, and
it worked with a very simple tree topology. [43:01] You had a few people that
were the top nodes, that then called the list of two or three people, that
then called the list of two or three people, that then called the list of two
or three people... And the message can be sent through the community very
rapidly through a telephone tree. [43:14] It is often used in Canada for
announcing snow days at school, for instance. If the school was closed, they
would call three parents, who would each call three parents, who would each
call three parents, and so forth. So that all the parents knew that the school
was closed. That's one aspect. [43:30] Another aspect of it is that
telephones, especially mobile phones, are really advertised as a very freedom
enabling kind of a thing. Things that you can go anywhere... [43:41] I don't
know if you remember some of the early telephones ads where there are always
businessmen on the beach. I remember this one where this woman's daughter
wants to make an appointment with her because she only has time for her
colleague appointments, and so it's this whole thing about spending more time
with her daughter – so she takes her daughter to the beach, which she is able
to do because she can still conduct business on her mobile phone. So it's this
freedom kind of a thing. [44:04] But in areas like the Jessi Cohen area in Tel
Aviv where we were working, and other areas where the project has been
exhibited, like Johannesburg – other places like that, the telephone has a
very different role, because it's free to receive phone calls, but it costs
much to make phone calls, in most parts of the world, especially in these poor
areas. [44:25] So the telephone is a very asymmetric power relationship based
on your availability of credit. So rather than being a freedom enabling thing,
it's a control technology. So young people and poor people that carry them
can't actually make any calls, they can't call anybody. They can only receive
calls. [44:40] So it's used as a tedder, a control system from their parents,
their teachers, their employers, so they can know where they are at any time
and say, hey why aren't you at work, or where are you, what are you doing.
It's actually a control technology. [44:54] We wanted to invert that too. So
the way the phone tree system work is that, when you have a message you
initiate a phone call, so you initiate a new tree, the system phones you...
[45:05] And you can initiate a new tree in the modern versions by pushing a
button in the gallery. There's a physical button in the gallery, you push the
button, there's a phone beside it, it rings a random person, you tell them
your message, and then it creates an ad hoc telephone tree. It takes all the
subscribers and arranges them in a tree, just like in the old telephone tree,
and each person calls each person, until your message, in theory, gets through
the community. [45:28] But of course in reality nobody answers their phones,
you get voicemail, and then you get voicemail talking to voicemail. Of course,
voice from the Internet is fake to begin with, so calls fail. So it actually
becomes this really frenetic system where people actually don’t know what's
going on, and the message is constantly lost. [45:44] And of course, you have
all of these missed phone calls, this high pressure of the always-on world.
You are always getting these phone calls, and you're missing phone calls, and
actually nobody ever knows what the message is. So it actually creates this
kind of mass confusion. [46:00] This once again demonstrates that the users –
what we call jokingly in the R15N literature, the diligence of the users, is
so much required for these systems to work. Technologically, the system is
actually more or less hindered. [46:21] But they also serve not only to make
that message, which is a more general message – but also, like in the other
ones, in R15N you are a node in the network. So when you don’t answer a call
you know that a message is dropped. [46:36] So you can image how volatile
information is in networks. When you pass your information through a third
party, you realise that they can drop it, they can change it, they can
introduce their own information. [46:50] And that is true in R15N, but is also
true in Facebook, in Twitter, and in any time you send messages through some
third party. That is one of the messages that is core to the series.



file sharing in Tenen & Foxman 2014


Tenen & Foxman
Book Piracy as Peer Preservation
2014


Book Piracy as Peer Preservation {#book-piracy-as-peer-preservation .entry-title}

**Abstract**

In describing the people, books, and technologies behind one of the
largest "shadow libraries" in the world, we find a tension between the
dynamics of sharing and preservation. The paper proceeds to
contextualize contemporary book piracy historically, challenging
accepted theories of peer production. Through a close analysis of one
digital library's system architecture, software and community, we assert
that the activities cultivated by its members are closer to that of
conservationists of the public libraries movement, with the goal of
preserving rather than mass distributing their collected material.
Unlike common peer production models emphasis is placed on the expertise
of its members as digital preservations, as well as the absorption of
digital repositories. Additionally, we highlight issues that arise from
their particular form of distributed architecture and community.

>  
>
> *Literature is the secretion of civilization, poetry of the ideal.
> That is why literature is one of the wants of societies. That is why
> poetry is a hunger of the soul. That is why poets are the first
> instructors of the people. That is why Shakespeare must be translated
> in France. That is why Molière must be translated in England. That is
> why comments must be made on them. That is why there must be a vast
> public literary domain. That is why all poets, all philosophers, all
> thinkers, all the producers of the greatness of the mind must be
> translated, commented on, published, printed, reprinted, stereotyped,
> distributed, explained, recited, spread abroad, given to all, given
> cheaply, given at cost price, given for nothing.*
> ^[1](#fn-2025-1){#fnref-2025-1}^

**Introduction**

The big money (and the bandwidth) in online media is in film, music, and
software. Text is less profitable for copyright holders; it is cheaper
to duplicate and easier to share. Consequently, issues surrounding the
unsanctioned sharing of print material receive less press and scant
academic attention. The very words, "book piracy," fail to capture the
spirit of what is essentially an Enlightenment-era project, openly
embodied in many contemporary "shadow libraries":^[2](#fn-2025-2){#fnref-2025-2}^
in the words of Victor Hugo, to establish a "vast public
literary domain." Writers, librarians, and political activists from Hugo
to Leo Tolstoy and Andrew Carnegie have long argued for unrestricted
access to information as a form of a public good essential to civic
engagement. In that sense, people participating in online book exchanges
enact a role closer to that of a librarian than that of a bootlegger or
a plagiarist. Whatever the reader's stance on the ethics of copyright
and copyleft, book piracy should not be dismissed as mere search for
free entertainment. Under the conditions of "digital
disruption,"^[3](#fn-2025-3){#fnref-2025-3}^ when the traditional
institutions of knowledge dissemination---the library, the university,
the newspaper, and the publishing house---feel themselves challenged and
transformed by the internet, we can look to online book sharing
communities for lessons in participatory governance, technological
innovation, and economic sustainability.

The primary aims of this paper are ethnographic and descriptive: to
study and to learn from a library that constitutes one of the world's
largest digital archives, rivaling *Google Books*, *Hathi Trust*, and
*Europeana*. In approaching a "thick description" of this archive we
begin to broach questions of scope and impact. We would like to ask:
Who? Where? and Why? What kind of people distribute books online? What
motivates their activity? What technologies enable the sharing of print
media? And what lessons can we draw from them? Our secondary aim is to
continue the work of exploring the phenomenon of book sharing more
widely, placing it in the context of other commons-based peer production
communities like Project Gutenberg and Wikipedia. The archetypal model
of peer production is one motivated by altruistic participation. But the
very history of public libraries is one that combines the impulse to
share and to protect. To paraphrase Jacques Derrida
^[4](#fn-2025-4){#fnref-2025-4}^ writing in "Archive Fever," the archive
shelters memory just as it shelters itself from memory. We encompass
this dual dynamic under the term "peer preservation," where the
logistics of "peers" and of "preservation" can sometimes work at odds to
one another.

Academic literature tends to view piracy on the continuum between free
culture and intellectual property rights. On the one side, an argument
is made for unrestricted access to information as a prerequisite to
properly deliberative democracy.^[5](#fn-2025-5){#fnref-2025-5}^ On this
view, access to knowledge is a form of political power, which must be
equitably distributed, redressing regional and social imbalances of
access.^[6](#fn-2025-6){#fnref-2025-6}^ The other side offers pragmatic
reasoning related to the long-term sustainability of the cultural
sphere, which, in order to prosper, must provide proper economic
incentives to content creators.^[7](#fn-2025-7){#fnref-2025-7}^

It is our contention that grassroots file sharing practices cannot be
understood solely in terms of access or intellectual property. Our field
work shows that while some members of the book sharing community
participate for activist or ideological reasons, others do so as
collectors, preservationists, curators, or simply readers. Despite
romantic notions to the contrary, reading is a social and mediated
activity. The reader encounters texts in conversation, through a variety
of physical interfaces and within an ecosystem of overlapping
communities, each projecting their own material contexts, social norms,
and ideologies. A technician who works in a biology laboratory, for
example, might publish closed-access peer-review articles by day, as
part of his work collective, and release terabytes of published material
by night, in the role of a moderator for an online digital library. Our
approach then, is to capture some of the complexity of such an
ecosystem, particularly in the liminal areas where people, texts, and
technology converge.

**Ethics disclaimer**

Research for this paper was conducted under the aegis of piracyLab, an
academic collective exploring the impact of technology on the spread of
knowledge globally.^[8](#fn-2025-8){#fnref-2025-8}^ One of the lab's
first tasks was to discuss the ethical challenges of collaborative
research in this space. The conversation involved students, faculty,
librarians, and informal legal council. Neutrality, to the extent that
it is possible, emerged as one of our foundational principles. To keep
all channels of communication open, we wanted to avoid bias and to give
voice to a diversity of stakeholders: from authors, to publishers, to
distributors, whether sanctioned or not. Following a frank discussion
and after several iterations, we drafted an ethics charter that
continues to inform our work today. The charter contains the following
provisions:

-- We neither condone nor condemn any forms of information exchange.\
-- We strive to protect our sources and do not retain any identifying
personal information.\
-- We seek transparency in sharing our methods, data, and findings with
the widest possible audience.\
-- Credit where credit is due. We believe in documenting attribution
thoroughly.\
-- We limit our usage of licensed material to the analysis of metadata,
with results used for non-commercial, nonprofit, educational purposes.\
-- Lab participants commit to abiding by these principles as long as
they remain active members of the research group.

In accordance with these principles and following the practice of
scholars like Balazs Bodo ^[9](#fn-2025-9){#fnref-2025-9}^, Eric Priest
^[10](#fn-2025-10){#fnref-2025-10}^, and Ramon Lobato and Leah Tang
^[11](#fn-2025-11){#fnref-2025-11}^, we redact the names of file sharing
services and user names, where such names are not made explicitly public
elsewhere.

**Centralization**

We begin with the intuition that all infrastructure is social to an
extent. Even private library collections cannot be said to reflect the
work of a single individual. Collective forces shape furniture, books,
and the very cognitive scaffolding that enables reading and
interpretation. Yet, there are significant qualitative differences in
the systems underpinning private collections, public libraries, and
unsanctioned peer-to-peer information exchanges like *The Pirate Bay*,
for example. Given these differences, the recent history of online book
sharing can be divided roughly into two periods. The first is
characterized by local, ad-hoc peer-to-peer document exchanges and the
subsequent growth of centralized content aggregators. Following trends
in the development of the web as a whole, shadow libraries of the second
period are characterized by communal governance and distributed
infrastructure.

Shadow libraries of the first period resemble a private library in that
they often emanate from a single authoritative source--a site of
collection and distribution associated with an individual collector,
sometimes explicitly. The library of Maxim Moshkov, for example,
established in 1994 and still thriving at *lib.ru*, is one of the most
visible collections of this kind. Despite their success, such libraries
are limited in scale by the means and efforts of a few individuals. Due
to their centralized architecture they are also susceptible to legal
challenges from copyright owners and to state intervention.
Shadow libraries responded to these problems by distributing labor,
responsibility, and infrastructure, resulting in a system that is more
robust, more redundant, and more resistant to any single point of
failure or control.

The case of *Gigapedia* (later *library.nu*) and its related file
hosting service *ifile.it* demonstrates the successes and the
deficiencies of the centralized digital library model. Arguably among
the largest and most popular virtual libraries online in the period of
2009-2011, the sites were operated by Irish
nationals^[12](#fn-2025-12){#fnref-2025-12}^ on domains registered in
Italy and on the island state of Niue, with servers on the territory of
Germany and Ukraine. At its peak, *library.nu* (LNU) hosted more than
400,000 books and was purported to make an "estimated turnover of EUR 8
million (USD 10,602,400) from advertising revenues, donations and sales
of premium-level accounts," at least according to a press release made
by the International Publishers Association
(IPA).^[13](#fn-2025-13){#fnref-2025-13}^\
*Archived version of library.nu, circa 12/10/2010*

Its apparent popularity notwithstanding, *LNU/Gigapedia* was supported
by relatively simple architecture, likely maintained by a lone
developer-administrator. The site itself consisted of a catalog of
digital books and related metadata, including title, author, year of
publication, number of pages, description, category classification, and
a number of boolean parameters (whether the file is bookmarked,
paginated, vectorized, is searchable, and has a cover). Although the
books could be hosted anywhere, many in the catalog resided on the
servers of a "cyberlocker" service *ifile.it*, affiliated with the main
site. Not strictly a single-source archive, *LNU/Gigapedia* was
nevertheless a federated entity, tied to a single site and to a single
individual. On February 15, 2012, in a Munich court, the IPA, in
conjunction with a consortium of international publishing houses and the
help of the German law firm Lausen
Rechtsanwalte,^[14](#fn-2025-14){#fnref-2025-14}^ served judicial
cease-and-desist orders naming both sites (*Gigapedia* and *ifile.it*).
Seventeen injunctions were sought in Ireland, with the consequent
voluntary shut-down of both domains, which for a brief time redirected
visitors first to *Google Books* and then to *Blue Latitudes*, a *New
York Times* bestseller about pirates, for sale on *Amazon*.

::: {#attachment_2430 .wp-caption .alignnone style="width: 310px"}
[![](http://computationalculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/figure-13-300x176.jpg "figure-1"){.size-medium
.wp-image-2430 width="300" height="176"
sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px"
srcset="http://computationalculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/figure-13-300x176.jpg 300w, http://computationalculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/figure-13-1024x603.jpg 1024w"}](http://computationalculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/figure-13.jpg)

Figure 1: Archived version of library.nu, circa 12/10/2010
:::

The relatively brief, by library standards, existence of *LNU/Gigapedia*
underscores a weakness in the federated library model. The site
flourished as long as it did not attract the ire of the publishing
industry. A lack of redundancy in the site's administrative structure
paralleled its lack on the server level. Once the authorities were able
to establish the identity of the site's operators (via *Paypal*
receipts, according to a partner at Lausen Rechtsanwalte), the project
was forced to shut down irrevocably.^[15](#fn-2025-15){#fnref-2025-15}^
The system's single point of origin proved also to be its single point
of failure.

Jens Bammel, Secretary General of the IPA, called the action "an
important step towards a more transparent, honest and fair trade of
digital content on the Internet."^[16](#fn-2025-16){#fnref-2025-16}^ The
rest of the internet mourned the passage of "the greatest, largest and
the best website for downloading
eBooks,"^[17](#fn-2025-17){#fnref-2025-17}^ comparing the demise of
*LNU/Gigapedia* to the burning of the ancient Library of
Alexandria.^[18](#fn-2025-18){#fnref-2025-18}^ Readers from around the
world flocked to sites like *Reddit* and *TorrentFreak* to express their
support and anger. For example, one reader wrote on *TorrentFreak*:

> I live in Macedonia (the Balkans), a country where the average salary
> is somewhere around 200eu, and I'm a student, attending a MA degree in
> communication sci. \[...\] where I come from the public library is not
> an option. \[...\] Our libraries are so poor, mostly containing 30year
> or older editions of books that almost never refer to the field of
> communication or any other contemporary science. My professors never
> hide that they use sites like library.nu \[...\] Original textbooks
> \[...\] are copy-printed handouts of some god knows how obtained
> original \[...\] For a country like Macedonia and the Balkans region
> generally THIS IS A APOCALYPTIC SCALE DISASTER! I really feel like the
> dark age is just around the corner these
> days.^[19](#fn-2025-19){#fnref-2025-19}^

A similar comment on *Reddit* reads:

> This is the saddest news of the year...heart-breaking...shocking...I
> was so attached to this site...I am from a third world country where
> buying original books is way too expensive if we see currency exchange
> rates...library.nu was a sea of knowledge for me and I learnt a lot
> from it \[...\] RIP library.nu...you have ignited several minds with
> free knowledge.^[20](#fn-2025-20){#fnref-2025-20}^

Another redditor wrote:

> This was an invaluable resource for international academics. The
> catalog of libraries overseas often cannot meet the needs of
> researchers in fields not specific to the country in which they are
> located. My doctoral research has taken a significant blow due to this
> recent shutdown \[...\] Please publishers, if you take away such a
> valuable resource, realize that you have created a gap that will be
> filled. This gap can either be filled by you or by
> us.^[21](#fn-2025-21){#fnref-2025-21}^

Another concludes:

> This just makes me want to start archiving everything I can get my
> hands on.^[22](#fn-2025-22){#fnref-2025-22}^

These anecdotal reports confirm our own experiences of studying and
teaching at universities with a diverse audience of international
students, who often recount a similar personal narrative. *Gigapedia*
and analogous sites fulfilled an unmet need in the international market,
redressing global inequities of access to
information.^[23](#fn-2025-23){#fnref-2025-23}^

But, being a cyberlocker-based service, *Gigapedia* did not succeed in
cultivating a meaningful sense of a community (even though it supported
a forum for brief periods of its existence). As Lobato and Tang
^[24](#fn-2025-24){#fnref-2025-24}^ write in their paper on
cyberlocker-based media distribution systems, cyberlockers in general
"do not foster collaboration and co-creation," taking an "instrumental
view of content hosted on their
sites."^[25](#fn-2025-25){#fnref-2025-25}^ Although not strictly a
cyberlocker, *LNU/Gigapedia* fit the profile of a passive,
non-transformative site by these criteria. For Lobato and Tang, the
rapid disappearance of many prominent cyberlocker sites underscores the
"structural instability" of "fragile file-hosting
ecology."^[26](#fn-2025-26){#fnref-2025-26}^ In our case, it would be
more precise to say that cyberlocker architecture highlights rather the
structural instability of centralized media archives, and not of file
sharing communities in general. Although bereaved readers were concerned
about the irrevocable loss of a valuable resource, digital libraries
that followed built a model of file sharing that is more resilient, more
transparent, and more participatory than their *LNU/Gigapedia*
predecessors.

**Distribution**

In parallel with the development of *LNU/Gigapedia*, a group of Russian
enthusiasts were working on a meta-library of sorts, under the name of
*Aleph*. Records of *Aleph's* activity go back at least as far as 2009.
Colloquially known as "prospectors," the volunteer members of *Aleph*
compiled library collections widely available on the gray market, with
an emphasis on academic and technical literature in Russian and
English.\
*DVD case cover of "Traum's library" advertising "more than 167,000
books" in fb2 format. Similar DVDs sell for around 1,000 RUB (\$25-30
US) on the streets of Moscow.*

At its inception, *Aleph* aggregated several "home-grown" archives,
already in wide circulation in universities and on the gray market.
These included:

-- *KoLXo3*, a collection of scientific texts that was at one time
distributed on 20 DVDs, overlapping with early Gigapedia efforts;\
-- *mexmat*, a library collected by the members of Moscow State
University's Department of Mechanics and Mathematics for internal use,
originally distributed through private FTP servers;\
-- *Homelab*, *Ihtik*, and *Ingsat* libraries;\
-- the Foreign Fiction archive collected from IRC \#\*\*\*
2003.09-2011.07.09 and the Internet Library;\
-- the *Great Science Textbooks* collection and, later, over 20 smaller
miscellaneous archives.^[27](#fn-2025-27){#fnref-2025-27}^

In retrospect, we can categorize the founding efforts along three
parallel tracks: 1) as the development of "front-end" server software
for searching and downloading books, 2) as the organization of an online
forum for enthusiasts willing to contribute to the project, and 3) the
collection effort required to expand and maintain the "back-end" archive
of documents, primarily in .pdf and .djvu
formats.^[28](#fn-2025-28){#fnref-2025-28}^ "What do we do?" writes one
of the early volunteers (in 2009) on the topic of "Outcomes, Goals, and
Scope of the Project." He answers: "we loot sites with ready-made
collections," "sort the indices in arbitrary normalized formats," "for
uncatalogued books we build a 'technical index': name of file, size,
hashcode," "write scripts for database sorting after the initial catalog
process," "search the database," "use the database for the construction
of an accessible catalog," "build torrents for the distribution of files
in the collection."^[29](#fn-2025-29){#fnref-2025-29}^ But, "everything
begins with the forum," in the words of another founding
member.^[30](#fn-2025-30){#fnref-2025-30}^ *Aleph*, the very name of the
group, reflects the aspiration to develop a "platform for the inception
of subsequent and more user-friendly" libraries--a platform "useful for
the developer, the reader, and the
librarian."^[31](#fn-2025-31){#fnref-2025-31}^\
Aleph's *anatomy*

::: {#attachment_2431 .wp-caption .alignnone style="width: 310px"}
[![](http://computationalculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/figure-21-300x300.jpg "figure-2"){.size-medium
.wp-image-2431 width="300" height="300"
sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px"
srcset="http://computationalculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/figure-21-300x300.jpg 300w, http://computationalculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/figure-21-150x150.jpg 150w, http://computationalculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/figure-21-1024x1024.jpg 1024w, http://computationalculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/figure-21.jpg 1200w"}](http://computationalculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/figure-21.jpg)

Figure 2: DVD case cover of "Traum's library" advertising "more than
167,000 books
:::

What is *Aleph*? Is it a collection of books? A community? A piece of
software? What makes a library? When attempting to visualize Aleph's
constituents (Figure 3), it seems insufficient to point to books alone,
or to social structure, or to technology in the absence of people and
content. Taking a systems approach to description, we understand a
library to comprise an assemblage of books, people, and infrastructure,
along with their corresponding words and texts, rules and institutions,
and shelves and servers.^[32](#fn-2025-32){#fnref-2025-32}^ In this
light, *Aleph*'s iteration on *LNU/Gigapedia* lies not in technological
advancement alone, but in system architecture, on all levels of
analysis.

Where the latter relied on proprietary server applications, *Aleph*
built software that enabled others to mirror and to serve the site in
its entirety. The server was written by d\* from www.l\*.com (Bet),
utilizing a codebase common to several similar large book-sharing
communities. The initial organizational efforts happened on a sub-forum
of a popular torrent tracker (*RR*). Fifteen founding members reached
early consensus to start hashing document filenames (using the MD5
message-digest algorithm), rather than to store files as is, with their
appropriate .pdf or .mobi extensions.^[33](#fn-2025-33){#fnref-2025-33}^
Bit-wise hashing was likely chosen as a (computationally) cheap way to
de-duplicate documents, since two identical files would hash into an
identical string. Hashing the filenames was hoped to have the
side-effect of discouraging direct (file system-level) browsing of the
archive.^[34](#fn-2025-34){#fnref-2025-34}^ Instead, the books were
meant to be accessed through the front-end "librarian" interface, which
added a layer of meta-data and search tools. In other words, the group
went out of its way to distribute *Aleph* as a library and not merely as
a large aggregation of raw files.

::: {#attachment_2221 .wp-caption .alignnone style="width: 593px"}
[![](http://computationalculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/figure-3.jpg "figure-3"){.size-full
.wp-image-2221 width="583" height="526"
sizes="(max-width: 583px) 100vw, 583px"
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Figure 3: Aleph's anatomy
:::

Site volunteers coordinate their efforts asynchronously, by means of a
simple online forum (using *phpBB* software), open to all interested
participants. Important issues related to the governance of the
project--decisions about new hardware upgrades, software design, and
book acquisition--receive public airing. For example, at one point, the
site experienced increased traffic from *Google* searches. Some senior
members welcomed the attention, hoping to attract new volunteers. Others
worried increased visibility would bring unwanted scrutiny. To resolve
the issue, a member suggested delisting the website by altering the
robots.txt configuration file and thereby blocking *Google*
crawlers.^[35](#fn-2025-35){#fnref-2025-35}^ Consequently, the site
would become invisible to *Google*, while remaining freely accessible
via a direct link. Early conversations on *RR*, reflect a consistent
concern about the archive's longevity and its vulnerability to official
sanctions. Rather than following the cyber-locker model of distribution,
the prospectors decided to release canonical versions of the library in
chunks, via *BitTorrent*--a distributed protocol for file sharing.
Another decision was made to "store" the library on open trackers (like
*The Pirate Bay*), rather than tying it to a closed, by-invitation-only
community. Although *LN/Gigapedia* was already decentralized to an
extent, the archeology of the community discussion reveals a multitude
of concious choices that work to further atomize *Aleph* and to
decentralize it along the axes of the collection, governance, and
engineering.

By March of 2009 these efforts resulted in approximately 79k volumes or
around 180gb of data.^[36](#fn-2025-36){#fnref-2025-36}^ By December of
the same year, the moderators began talking about a terabyte, 2tb in
2010, and around 7tb by 2011.^[37](#fn-2025-37){#fnref-2025-37}^ By
2012, the core group of "prospectors" grew to 1,000 registered users.
*Aleph*'s main mirror received over a million page views per month and
about 40,000 unique visits per day.^[38](#fn-2025-38){#fnref-2025-38}^
An online eBook piracy report estimates a combined total of a million
unique visitors per day for *Aleph* and its
mirrors.^[39](#fn-2025-39){#fnref-2025-39}^

As of January 2014, the *Aleph* catalog contains over a million books
(1,021,000) and over 15 million academic articles, "weighing in" at just
under 10tb. Most remarkably, one of the world's largest digital
libraries operates on an annual budget of \$1,900
US.^[40](#fn-2025-40){#fnref-2025-40}^

\#\#\# Vulnerability\
Distributed architecture gives *Aleph* significant advantages over its
federated predecessors. Were *Aleph* servers to go offline the archive
would survive "in the cloud" of the *BitTorrent* network. Should the
forum (*Bet*) close, another online forum could easily take its place.
And were *Aleph* library portal itself go dark, other mirrors would (and
usually do) quickly take its place.

But the decentralized model of content distribution is not without its
challenges. To understand them, we need to review some of the
fundamentals behind the *BitTorrent* protocol. At its bare minimum (as
it was described in the original specification by Bram Cohen) the
protocol involves a "seeder," someone willing to share something it its
entirety; a "leecher," someone downloading shared data; and a torrent
"tracker" that coordinates activity between seeders and
leechers.^[41](#fn-2025-41){#fnref-2025-41}^

Imagine a music album sharing agreement between three friends, where,
initially, only one holds a copy of some album: for example, Nirvana's
*Nevermind*. Under the centralized model of file sharing, the friend
holding the album would transmit two copies, one to each friend. The
power of *BitTorrent* comes from shifting the burden of sharing from a
single seeder (friend one) to a "swarm" of leechers (friends two and
three). On this model, the first leecher joining the network (friend
two, in our case) would begin to get his data from the seeder directly,
as before. But the second leecher would receive some bits from the
seeder and some from the first leecher, in a non-linear, asynchronous
fashion. In our example, we can imagine the remaining friend getting
some songs from the first friend and some from the second. The friend
who held the album originally now transmitted something less than two
full copies of the album, since the other two friends exchanged some
bits of information between themselves, lessening the load on the
original album holder.

When downloading from the *BitTorrent* network, a peer may receive some
bits from the beginning of the document, some from the middle, and some
from the end, in parts distributed among the members of the swarm. A
local application called the "client" is responsible for checking the
integrity of the pieces and for reassembling the them into a coherent
whole. A torrent "tracker" coordinates the activity between peers,
keeping track of who has what where. Having received the whole document,
a leecher can, in turn, become a seeder by sharing all of his downloaded
bits with the remaining swarm (who only have partial copies). The
leecher can also take the file offline, choosing not to share at
all.^[42](#fn-2025-42){#fnref-2025-42}^

The original protocol left torrent trackers vulnerable to charges of
aiding and abetting copyright
infringement.^[43](#fn-2025-43){#fnref-2025-43}^ Early in 2008, Cohen
extended *BitTorrent* to make use of  "distributed sloppy hash tables"
(DHT) for storing peer locations without resorting to a central tracker.
Under these new guidelines, each peer would maintain a small routing
table pointing to a handful of nearby peer locations. In effect, DHT
placed additional responsibility on the swarm to become a tracker of
sorts, however "sloppy" and imperfect. By November of of 2009, *Pirate
Bay* announced its transition away from tracking entirely, in favor of
DHT and the related PEX and Magnetic Links protocols. At the time they
called it, "world's most resilient
tracking."^[44](#fn-2025-44){#fnref-2025-44}^

Despite these advancements, the decentralized model of file sharing
remains susceptible to several chronic ailments. The first follows from
the fact that ad-hoc distribution networks privilege popular material. A
file needs to be actively traded to ensure its availability. If nobody
is actively sharing and downloading Nirvana's *Nevermind*, the album is
in danger of fading out of the cloud. As one member wrote succinctly on
*Gimel* forums, "unpopular files are in danger of become
inaccessible."^[45](#fn-2025-45){#fnref-2025-45}^ This dynamic is less
of a concern for Hollywood blockbusters, but more so for "long tail"
specialized materials of the sort found in *Aleph*, and indeed, for
*Aleph* itself as a piece of software distributed through the network.
*Aleph* combats the problem of fading torrents by renting
"seedboxes"--servers dedicated to keeping the *Aleph* seeds containing
the archive alive, preserving the availability of the collection. The
server in production as of 2014 can serve up to 12tb of data speeds of
100-800 megabits per second. Other file sharing communities address the
issue by enforcing a certain download to upload ratio on members of
their network.

The lack of true anonymity is the second problem intrinsic to the
*BitTorrent* protocol. Peers sharing bits directly cannot but avoid
exposing their IP address (unless these are masked behind virtual
private networks or TOR relays). A "Sybil" attack becomes possible when
a malicious peer shares bits in bad faith, with the intent to log IP
addresses.^[46](#fn-2025-46){#fnref-2025-46}^ Researchers exploring this
vector of attack were able to harvest more than 91,000 IP addresses in
less than 24 hours of sharing a popular television
show.^[47](#fn-2025-47){#fnref-2025-47}^ They report that more than 9%
of requests made to their servers indicated "modified clients", which
are likely also to be running experiments in the DHT. Legitimate
copyright holders and copyright "trolls" alike have used this
vulnerability to bring lawsuits against individual sharers in
court.^[48](#fn-2025-48){#fnref-2025-48}^

These two challenges are further exacerbated in the case of *Aleph*,
which uses *BitTorrent* to distribute large parts of its own
architecture. These parts are relatively large--around 40-50GB each.
Long-term sustainability of *Aleph* as a distributed system therefore
requires a rare participant: one interested in downloading the archive
as a whole (as opposed to downloading individual books), one who owns
the hardware to store and transmit terabytes of data, and one possessing
the technical expertise to do so safely.

**Peer preservation**

In light of the challenges and the effort involved in maintaining the
archive, one would be remiss to describe *Aleph* merely in terms of book
piracy, understood in conventional terms of financial gain, theft, or
profiteering. Day-to-day labor of the core group is much more
comprehensible as a mode of commons-based peer production, which is, in
the canonical definition, work made possible by a "networked
environment," "radically decentralized, collaborative, and
non-proprietary; based on sharing resources and outputs among widely
distributed, loosely connected individuals who cooperate with each other
without relying on either market signals or managerial
commands."^[49](#fn-2025-49){#fnref-2025-49}^ *Aleph* answers the
definition of peer production, resembling in many respects projects like
*Linux*, *Wikipedia*, and *Project Gutenberg*.

Yet, *Aleph* is also patently a library. Its work can and should be
viewed in the broader context of Enlightenment ideals: access to
literacy, universal education, and the democratization of knowledge. The
very same ideals gave birth to the public library movement as a whole at
the turn of the 20th century, in the United States, Europe, and
Russia.^[50](#fn-2025-50){#fnref-2025-50}^ Parallels between free
library movements of the early 20th and the early 21st centuries point
to a social dynamic that runs contrary to the populist spirit of
commons-based peer production projects, in a mechanism that we describe
as peer preservation. The idea encompasses conflicting drives both to
share and to hoard information.

The roots of many public libraries lie in extensive private collections.
Bodleian Library at Oxford, for example, traces its origins back to the
collections of Thomas Cobham, Bishop of Worcester, Humphrey, Duke of
Gloucester, and to Thomas Bodley, himself an avid book collector.
Similarly, Poland's Zaluski Library, one of Europe's oldest, owes its
existence to the collecting efforts of the Zaluski brothers, both
bishops and bibliophiles.^[51](#fn-2025-51){#fnref-2025-51}^ As we
mentioned earlier, *Aleph* too began its life as an aggregator of
collections, including the personal libraries of Moshkov and Traum. When
books are scarce, private libraries are a sign of material wealth and
prestige. In the digital realm, where the cost of media acquisition is
low, collectors amass social capital. *Aleph* extends its collecting
efforts on *RR*, a much larger, moderated torrent exchange forum and
tracker. *RR* hosts a number of sub-forums dedicated to the exchange of
software, film, music, and books (where members of *Aleph* often make an
appearance). In the exchange economy of symbolic goods, top collectors
are known by their standing in the community, as measured by their
seniority, upload and download ratios, and the number of "releases." A
release is more than just a file: it must not duplicate items in the
archive and follows strict community guidelines related to packaging,
quality, and meta-data accompanying the document. Less experienced
members of the community treat high status numbers with reverence and
respect.

According to a question and answer session with an official *RR*
representative, *RR* is not particularly friendly to new
users.^[52](#fn-2025-52){#fnref-2025-52}^ In fact, high barriers to
entry are exactly what differentiates *RR* from sites like *The Pirate
Bay* and other unmoderated, open trackers. *RR* prides itself on the
"quality of its moderation." Unlike *Pirate Bay*, *RR* sees itself as a
"media library", where content is "organized and properly shelved." To
produce an acceptable book "release" one needs to create a package of
files, including well-formatted meta-data (following strict stylistic
rules) in the header, the name of the book, an image of its cover, the
year of release, author, genre, publisher, format, language, a required
description, and screenshots of a sample page. The files must be named
according to a convention, be "of the same kind" (that is belong to the
same collection), and be of the right size. Home-made scans are
discouraged and governed by a 1,000-words instruction manual. Scanned
books must have clear attribution to the releaser responsible for
scanning and processing.

More than that, guidelines indicate that smaller releases should be
expected to be "absorbed" into larger ones. In this way, a single novel
by Charles Dickens can and will be absorbed into his collected works,
which might further be absorbed into "Novels of 19th Century," and then
into "Foreign Fiction" (as a hypothetical, but realistic example).
According to the rules, the collection doing the absorbing must be "at
least 50% larger than the collection it is absorbing." Releases are
further governed by a subset or rules particular to the forum
subsections (e.g. journals, fiction, documentation, service manuals,
etc.).^[53](#fn-2025-53){#fnref-2025-53}^

All this to say that although barriers to acquisition are low, the
barriers to active participation are high and continually *increase with
time*. The absorption of smaller collections by larger favors the
veterans. Rules and regulations grow in complexity with the maturation
of the community, further widening the rift between senior and junior
peers. We are then witnessing something like the institutionalization of
a professional "librarian" class, whose task it is to protect the
collection from the encroachment of low-quality contributors. Rather
than serving the public, a librarian's primary commitment is to the
preservation of the archive as a whole. Thus what starts as a true peer
production project, may, in the end, grow to erect solid walls to
peering. This dynamic is already embodied in the history of public
libraries, where amateur librarians of the late 19th century eventually
gave way to their modern degree-holding counterparts. The conflicting
logistics of access and preservation may lead digital library
development along a similar path.

The expression of this dual push and pull dynamic in the observed
practices of peer preservation communities conforms to Derrida's insight
into the nature of the archive. Just as the walls of a library serve to
shelter the documents within, they also isolate the collection from the
public at large. Access and preservation, in that sense, subsist at
opposite and sometime mutually exclusive ends of the sharing spectrum.
And it may be that this dynamic is particular to all peer production
communities, like *Wikipedia*, which, according to recent studies, saw a
decline in new contributors due to increasingly strict rule
enforcement.^[54](#fn-2025-54){#fnref-2025-54}^ However, our results are
merely speculative at the moment. The analysis of a large dataset we
have collected as corollary to our field work online may offer further
evidence for these initial intuitions. In the meantime, it is not enough
to conclude that brick-and-mortar libraries should learn from these
emergent, distributed architectures of peer preservation. If the future
of *Aleph* is leading to increased institutionalization, the community
may soon face the fate embodied by its own procedures: the absorption of
smaller, wonderfully messy, ascending collections into larger, more
established, and more rigid social structures.

 

 

**Biographies**

Dennis Tenen teaches in the fields of new media and digital humanities
at Columbia University, Department of English and Comparative
Literature. His research often happens at the intersection of people,
texts, and technology. He is currently writing a book on minimal
computing, called *Plain Text*.

Maxwell Foxman is an adjunct professor at Marymount Manhattan College
and a PhD candidate in Communications at Columbia University, where he
studies the use and adoption of digital media into everyday life. He has
written on failed social media and on gamification in electoral
politics, newsrooms, and mobile media.

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::: {#footnotes-2025 .footnotes}
::: {.footnotedivider}
:::

1. [Victor Hugo, *Works of Victor Hugo* (New York: Nottingham Society,
1907), 230. [[↩](#fnref-2025-1)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-1}
2. [Lawrence Liang, "Shadow Libraries E-Flux," 2012.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-2)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-2}
3. [McKendrick, Joseph. *Libraries: At the Epicenter of the Digital
Disruption, The Library Resource Guide Benchmark Study on 2013/14
Library Spending Plans* (Unisphere Media, 2013).
[[↩](#fnref-2025-3)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-3}
4. ["Archive Fever: a Freudian Impression," *Diacritics* 25, no. 2
(July 1995): 9--63.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-4)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-4}
5. [Yochai Benkler, *The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production
Transforms Markets and Freedom* (New Haven: Yale University Press,
2006), 92; Paul DiMaggio et al., "Social Implications of the
Internet," *Annual Review of Sociology* 27 (January 2001): 320; Zizi
Papacharissi "The Virtual Sphere the Internet as a Public Sphere,"
*New Media & Society* 4.1 (2002): 9--27; Craig Calhoun "Information
Technology and the International Public Sphere," in *Shaping the
Network Society: the New Role of Civil Society in Cyberspace*, ed.
Douglas Schuler and Peter Day (MIT Press, 2004), 229--52.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-5)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-5}
6. [Benkler, *The Wealth of Networks*, 442; Manuel Castells,
"Communication, Power and Counter-Power in the Network Society,"
*International Journal of Communication* (2007): 251; Lawrence
Lessig *Free Culture:How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to
Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity* (The Penguin Press, 2004);
Clay Shirky Here Comes Everybody: the Power of Organizing Without
Organizations (New York: Penguin Press, 2008), 153.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-6)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-6}
7. [Brian R. Day "In Defense of Copyright: Creativity, Record Labels,
and the Future of Music," *Seton Hall Journal of Sports and
Entertainment Law*, 21.1 (2011); William M. Landes and Richard A.
Posner, *The Economic Structure of Intellectual Property Law*
(Harvard University Press, 2003). For further discussion see
Steve P. Calandrillo, "Economic Analysis of Property Rights in
Information: Justifications and Problems of Exclusive Rights,
Incentives to Generate Information, and the Alternative of a
Government-Run Reward System" *Fordham Intellectual Property, Media
& Entertainment Law Journal* 9 (1998): 306; Julie Cohen, "Creativity
and Culture in Copyright Theory," *U.C. Davis Law Review* 40 (2006):
1151; Justin Hughes "Philosophy of Intellectual Property,"
*Georgetown Law Journal* 77 (1988): 303.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-7)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-7}
8. [[piracylab.org](“http://piracylab.org”).
[[↩](#fnref-2025-8)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-8}
9. ["Set the Fox to Watch the Geese: Voluntary IP Regimes in Piratical
File-Sharing Communities, in *Piracy: Leakages from Modernity*
(Litwin Books, LLC, 2012).
[[↩](#fnref-2025-9)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-9}
10. ["The Future of Music and Film Piracy in China," *Berkeley
Technology Law Journal* 21 (2006): 795.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-10)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-10}
11. ["The Cyberlocker Gold Rush: Tracking the Rise of File-Hosting Sites
as Media Distribution Platforms," *International Journal of Cultural
Studies*, (2013).
[[↩](#fnref-2025-11)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-11}
12. [The injunctions name I\* and F\* N\* (also known as Smiley).
[[↩](#fnref-2025-12)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-12}
13. ["Publishers Strike Major Blow against Internet Piracy" last
modified February 15, 2012 and archived on January 10, 2014,
[http://www.internationalpublishers.org/ipa-press-releases/286-publishers-strike-major-blow-against-internet-piracy](“http://web.archive.org/web/20140110160254/http://www.internationalpublishers.org/ipa-press-releases/286-publishers-strike-major-blow-against-internet-piracy”).
[[↩](#fnref-2025-13)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-13}
14. [Including the German Publishers and Booksellers Association,
Cambridge University Press, Georg Thieme, Harper Collins, Hogrefe,
Macmillan Publishers Ltd., Cengage Learning, Elsevier, John Wiley &
Sons, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Pearson Education Ltd., Pearson
Education Inc., Oxford University Press, Springer, Taylor & Francis,
C.H. Beck as well as Walter De Gruyter. The legal proceedings are
also supported by the Association of American Publishers (AAP), the
Dutch Publishers Association (NUV), the Italian Publishers
Association (AIE) and the International Association of Scientific
Technical and Medical Publishers (STM).
[[↩](#fnref-2025-14)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-14}
15. [Andrew Losowsky, "Book Downloading Site Targeted in Injunctions
Requested by 17 Publishers," *Huffington Post*, accessed on
September 1, 2014,
[http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/15/librarynu-book-downloading-injunction\_n\_1280383.html](“http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/15/librarynu-book-downloading-injunction_n_1280383.html”).
[[↩](#fnref-2025-15)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-15}
16. [International Publishers Association.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-16)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-16}
17. [Vik, "Gigapedia: The greatest, largest and the best website for
downloading eBooks," Emotionallyspeaking.com, last edited on August
10, 2009 and archived on July 15, 2012,
[http://archive.is/g205"\>http://vikas-gupta.in/2009/08/10/gigapedia-the-greatest-largest-and-the-best-website-for-downloading-free-e-books/](“http://archive.is/g205”).
[[↩](#fnref-2025-17)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-17}
18. [Anonymous author, "Library.nu: Modern era's 'Destruction of the
Library of Alexandria,'" *Breaking Culture* (on tublr.com), last
edited on February 16, 2012 and archived on January 14, 2014,
[http://breakingculture.tumblr.com/post/17697325088/gigapedia-rip](“https://web.archive.org/web/20140113135846/http://breakingculture.tumblr.com/post/17697325088/gigapedia-rip”).
[[↩](#fnref-2025-18)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-18}
19. [[http://torrentfreak.com/book-publishers-shut-down-library-nu-and-ifile-it-120215](“https://web.archive.org/web/20140110050710/http://torrentfreak.com/book-publishers-shut-down-library-nu-and-ifile-it-120215”)
archived on January 10, 2014.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-19)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-19}
20. [[http://www.reddit.com/r/trackers/comments/ppfwc/librarynu\_admin\_the\_website\_is\_shutting\_down\_due](“https://web.archive.org/web/20140110050450/http://www.reddit.com/r/trackers/comments/ppfwc/librarynu_admin_the_website_is_shutting_down_due”)
archived on January 10, 2014.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-20)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-20}
21. [[http://www.reddit.com/r/trackers/comments/ppfwc/librarynu\_admin\_the\_website\_is\_shutting\_down\_due](“https://web.archive.org/web/20140110050450/http://www.reddit.com/r/trackers/comments/ppfwc/librarynu_admin_the_website_is_shutting_down_due”)
orchived on January 10, 2014.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-21)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-21}
22. [[www.reddit.com/r/trackers/comments/ppfwc/librarynu\_admin\_the\_website\_is\_shutting\_down\_due](“https://web.archive.org/web/20140110050450/http://www.reddit.com/r/trackers/comments/ppfwc/librarynu_admin_the_website_is_shutting_down_due”)
archived on January 10, 2014.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-22)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-22}
23. [This point is made at length in the report on media piracy in
emerging economies, released by the American Assembly in 2011. See
Joe Karaganis, ed. *Media Piracy in Emerging Economies* (Social
Science Research Network, March 2011),
[http://piracy.americanassembly.org/the-report/](“http://piracy.americanassembly.org/the-report/”), I.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-23)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-23}
24. [Lobato and Tang, "The Cyberlocker Gold Rush."
[[↩](#fnref-2025-24)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-24}
25. [Lobato and Tang, "The Cyberlocker Gold Rush," 9.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-25)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-25}
26. [Lobato and Tang, "The Cyberlocker Gold Rush," 7.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-26)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-26}
27. [GIMEL/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=169; GIMEL/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=299.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-27)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-27}
28. [GIMEL/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=299.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-28)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-28}
29. [GIMEL/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=169. All quotes translated from Russian
by the authors, unless otherwise noted.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-29)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-29}
30. [GIMEL/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=6999&p=41911.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-30)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-30}
31. [GIMEL/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=757.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-31)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-31}
32. [In this sense, we see our work as complementary to but not
exhausted by infrastructure studies. See Geoffrey C. Bowker and
Susan Leigh Star, *Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its
Consequences* (The MIT Press, 1999); Paul N. Edwards, "Y2K:
Millennial Reflections on Computers as Infrastructure," *History and
Technology* 15.1-2 (1998): 7--29; Paul N. Edwards, "Infrastructure
and Modernity: Force, Time, and Social Organization in the History
of Sociotechnical Systems," in *Modernity and Technology*, 2003,
185--225; Paul N. Edwards et al., "Introduction: an Agenda for
Infrastructure Studies," *Journal of the Association for Information
Systems* 10.5 (2009): 364--74; Brian Larkin "Degraded Images,
Distorted Sounds: Nigerian Video and the Infrastructure of Piracy,"
*Public Culture* 16.2 (2004): 289--314; Brian Larkin "Pirate
Infrastructures," in *Structures of Participation in Digital
Culture*, ed. Joe Karaganis (New York: SSRC, 2008), 74--87; Susan
Leigh Star and Geoffrey C. Bowker, "How to Infrastructure," in
*Handbook of New Media: Social Shaping and Social Consequences of
ICTs*, (SAGE Publications Ltd, 2010), 230--46.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-32)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-32}
33. [For information on cryptographic hashing see Praveen Gauravaram and
Lars R. Knudsen, "Cryptographic Hash Functions," in *Handbook of
Information and Communication Security*, ed. Peter Stavroulakis and
Mark Stamp (Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2010), 59--79.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-33)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-33}
34. [See GIMEL/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=55kj and
GIMEL/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=18&sid=936.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-34)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-34}
35. [GIMEL/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=714.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-35)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-35}
36. [GIMEL/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=47.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-36)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-36}
37. [GIMEL/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=175&hilit=RR&start=25.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-37)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-37}
38. [GIMEL/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=104&start=450.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-38)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-38}
39. [URL redacted; These numbers should be taken as a very rough
estimate because 1) we do not consider Alexa to be a reliable source
for web traffic and 2) some of the other figures cited in the report
are suspicious. For example, *Aleph* has a relatively small archive
of foreign fiction, at odds with the reported figure of 800,000
volumes. [[↩](#fnref-2025-39)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-39}
40. [GIMEL/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=7061.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-40)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-40}
41. ["The BitTorrent Protocol Specification," last modified October 20,
2012 and archived on June 13, 2014,
[http://www.bittorrent.org/beps/bep\_0003.html](“http://web.archive.org/web/20140613190300/http://www.bittorrent.org/beps/bep_0003.html”).
[[↩](#fnref-2025-41)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-41}
42. [For more information on BitTorrent, see Bram Cohen, *Incentives
Build Robustness in BitTorrent*, last modified on May 22, 2003,
[http://www.bittorrent.org/bittorrentecon.pdf](“http://www.bittorrent.org/bittorrentecon.pdf”);
Ricardo Salmon, Jimmy Tran, and Abdolreza Abhari, "Simulating a File
Sharing System Based on BitTorrent," in *Proceedings of the 2008
Spring Simulation Multiconference*, SpringSim '08 (San Diego, CA,
USA: Society for Computer Simulation International, 2008), 21:1--5.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-42)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-42}
43. [In 2008 *The Pirate Bay* co-founders Peter Sunde, Gottfrid
Svartholm Warg, Fredrik Neij, and Carl Lundstromwere were charged
with "conspiracy to break copyright related offenses" in Sweden. See
Simon Johnson for Reuters.com, "Pirate Bay Copyright Test Case
Begins in Sweden," last edited on February 16, 2009 and archived on
August 4, 2014,
[http://uk.reuters.com/article/2009/02/16/tech-us-sweden-piratebay-idUKTRE51F3K120090216](http://web.archive.org/web/20140804000829/http://uk.reuters.com/article/2009/02/16/tech-us-sweden-piratebay-idUKTRE51F3K120090216”).
[[↩](#fnref-2025-43)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-43}
44. [TPB, "Worlds most resiliant tracking," last edited November 17,
2009 and archived on August 4, 2014,
[thepiratebay.se/blog/175](“http://web.archive.org/web/20140804015645/http://thepiratebay.se/blog/175”).
[[↩](#fnref-2025-44)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-44}
45. [GIMEL/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=6999.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-45)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-45}
46. [Thibault Cholez, Isabelle Chrisment, and Olivier Festor "Evaluation
of Sybil Attacks Protection Schemes in KAD," in *Scalability of
Networks and Services*, ed. Ramin Sadre and Aiko Pras, Lecture Notes
in Computer Science 5637 (Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2009), 70--82.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-46)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-46}
47. [J.P. Timpanaro et al., "BitTorrent's Mainline DHT Security
Assessment," in *2011 4th IFIP International Conference on New
Technologies, Mobility and Security (NTMS)*, 2011, 1--5.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-47)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-47}
48. [Ernesto, "US P2P Lawsuit Shows Signs of a 'Pirate Honeypot',"
Technology, *TorrentFreak*, last edited in June 2011 and archived on
January 14, 2014,
[http://torrentfreak.com/u-s-p2p-lawsuit-shows-signs-of-a-pirate-honeypot-110601/](“https://web.archive.org/web/20140114200326/http://torrentfreak.com/u-s-p2p-lawsuit-shows-signs-of-a-pirate-honeypot-110601/”).
[[↩](#fnref-2025-48)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-48}
49. [Benkler *The Wealth of Networks*, 60.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-49)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-49}
50. [On the free and public library movement in England and the United
States see Thomas Greenwood, *Public Libraries: a History of the
Movement and a Manual for the Organization and Management of Rate
Supported Libraries* (Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent, 1890);
Elizabeth Akers Allen and James Phinney Baxter, *Dedicatory
Exercises of the Baxter Building* (Auburn, Me: Lakeside Press,
1889). To read more about the history of free and public library
movements in Russia see Mary Stuart, "The Evolution of Librarianship
in Russia: the Librarians of the Imperial Public Library,
1808-1868," *The Library Quarterly* 64.1 (January 1994): 1--29; Mary
Stuart, "Creating a National Library for the Workers' State: the
Public Library in Petrograd and the Rumiantsev Library Under
Bolshevik Rule," *The Slavonic and East European Review* 72.2 (April
1994): 233--58; Mary Stuart "The Ennobling Illusion: the Public
Library Movement in Late Imperial Russia," *The Slavonic and East
European Review* 76.3 (July 1998): 401--40.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-50)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-50}
51. [Michael H. Harris, *History of Libraries of the Western World*,
(London: Scarecrow Press, 1999), 136.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-51)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-51}
52. [http://s\*.d\*.ru/comments/508985/.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-52)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-52}
53. [RR/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1590026.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-53)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-53}
54. [Aaron Halfaker et al."The Rise and Decline of an Open Collaboration
System: How Wikipedia's Reaction to Popularity Is Causing Its
Decline," *American Behavioral Scientist*, December 2012.
[[↩](#fnref-2025-54)]{.footnotereverse}]{#fn-2025-54}
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