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The tangled hydra: developments in transglobal peer‐to‐peer culture

Global Networks

Published online on


Internet‐enabled file sharing via peer‐to‐peer (P2P) systems is a transglobal activity involving millions of people circulating vast amounts of information. ‘Anonymous peers’ exchange data via autonomous networks that are simultaneously external to, and embedded within, market structures. A transnational alliance of technology and media industries and governments employs technological barriers, legal instruments and, belatedly, commercial alternatives to constrain the phenomenon. Such ‘digital enclosures’ trigger productive rebellious acts by programmers, intellectual property activists and file sharers inhabiting overlapping informal networks. Escalating cycles of retaliation and resistance spawn further disorder in the informational domain. The period 2009–12 has been a watershed for technological trends, landmark legal battles and supranational treaties. However, scant attention is paid to how ‘digital piracy’ disturbs the logic of capital by instituting material practices that tolerate contradictory positions on free culture and electronic freedom, creating new contexts for social experimentation and recomposition.