Hacker culture, intellectual properties and the Gift Economy / part 1 by peterfuchs
September 21, 2008, 7:11 pm
Filed under: Art as Gift Research blog | Tags:
Razor1911 warez group logo

Razor1911 warez group logo

We  are  the  result  of  your  laws.
We are the result of your  democracy.
We are the result of your corruption. (PROCYON group announcement)

One of the most important aspect of hacker culture is the donation of the stolen (hacked) product to the public, turning the result of the heist into a free, shared public commodity. In theory, the activity of the hacker aims to free up the intellectual products which are held back from the public by its ruthless, profit seeking publishers. The hacker mythology was always very aware to the general rules of gift economy, and as it become widespread with the generational change of the last few years, the generation, of which elite are mostly made up of ex-hackers are supporting many different kind of alternative economy models. After all, they have realized, that if they publish (others) intellectual properties for the public, they have to rely on similar exchanges in many other filed of economy.

But let’s take a quick overview on the notion of gifting in this culture: and especially the aspect of warez , the distribution of stolen, (pirated) movies and software applications.

The traditional hacker does not hack databases for mere financial interest, or personal gain: they do it for allowing information to shake down the shackles of those who want to profit from them.

It might be hard to point out exactly, what is the relation of the warez scene, which produces most of the file-sharing content, (movies, music, books, software applications, computer games) and the original hacker groups of the seventies, but the working method and the underlying philosophy link the two in many aspects. According to a Wikipedia definition, the warez, the product of the warez groups are:

The term generally refers to illegal releases by organized groups, as opposed to peer-to-peer file sharing between friends or large groups of people with similar interest using a darknet. It usually does not refer to commercial for-profit software counterfeiting. This term was initially coined by members of the various computer underground circles, but has since become commonplace among Internet users and the mass media.

The warez is stolen intellectual property, redistributed freely to the public – yet, the legal definition is much more straightforward, as warez distribution counts as something similar to theft in most western countries, yet many amendments have to be taken due the special aspect of digital media. The warez groups steals the product, usually in advance, before its planned publishing, and breaks the different security systems encrypting it, and finally make it public on open channels of digital distribution, usually on P2P networks or other fast speed file sharing systems.

What makes these organizations interesting on regard of Gift-Economy are their attitude towards the possible gains of their heists – they are asking nothing in return, and also discouraging further distributors to do otherwise. Somehow they threat to the stolen merchandise as a “prisoner” of a corrupt system, which was freed up for those who would like to use them.

The quote on the beginning of the post somehow refers to this issue – for these hackers, the one who blame is a corrupt system, which distorted the notion of private property and intellectual domain. Therefore for them, hacking and re-distributing is a semi-political issue, they want to undermine the notion of property with their activity, therefore rewriting the rules of exchange for the whole society.

next: Gift-economy and P2P networks

meanwhile, further reading into the subject can be found here: Future Positive, check out  The Hacker Milieu as Gift Culture by Eric Steven Raymond, and also recommend the other interesting essays on this page.


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[…] was reading an interesting, if opaque, post on “Hacker Culture, Intellectual Properties, and the Gift Economy” (like you, I’m confused even by the title) when I came across a passage that seemed to […]

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