Some creep just sent a legal threat to the lab where I work because a student bittorrented some software for research. Which is one reason why I was so happy to hear about this project (which, it turns out, was itself threatened and taken down by another legal department only one day after launch).
Last week, two M.A. students from the Piet Zwart Institute went live with the Firefox Application Pirates of the Amazon which placed a "Download 4 Free" link on top of Amazon product pages directing users to .torrent tracker files for the item from the Pirate Bay. The project was intended as a parodic commentary on e-commerce and the distribution of information and products online. After one day of activity, Amazon sent a legal notice requesting that they take it down, and the students complied. Even with this retraction, Pirates of the Amazon received a vehemently oppositional reaction when blogged on digg and CNET, and now the students are using the original project website to document these discussions. According to a recent post to the mailing list nettime, professor Florian Cramer and open source programmer Jaromil, who supervised the project, are seeking statements of support for Pirates of the Amazon. While legal action will not be taken against the students, Cramer and Jaromil want to enlist support in the face of the conservative tone found on the digg and CNET threads. Considering how much labor, outreach, and discussion has occurred around issues of copyright and the distribution of information over the past few years, the comments (which range from "That's just evil" to "Oh for god sakes can crooks be any more pathetic") are difficult to believe. If anything, they signal the need for more work to be done in the fight for free culture. For those who would like to submit a statement of support, contact mail [AT] pirates-of-the-amazon.com. (rhizome.org)