Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Notes on The Pirate's Dilemma

Instruments of Piracy
by Jourdan Cameron

A salty breeze cuts across the golden sand as I flare my nostrils wide open, so ready to recieve it. I sharply inhale, feeling invigorated, full of life. I'm locked, loaded, and sitting atop the world.
Suddenly however, shouts break the calm, as shots fire, and screams begin to fill the air.
"A ship! A ship!" I can hear the people shouting madly, and I see the running across the beach in a grand melee of panic.
I begin to wonder just what's going on as a woman grabs me by the shoulders. Her eyes are wide with shock, and a mad, uncertain fear.
"Child" she begins gasping "if you know what's good for you you'll run!"
Deciding that it would be a good idea to leave, I dash across the sand for the shelter of the forest. Stopping at it's fringes I watch the wild panic ashore. What could be happening? There are men with guns aimed, poised for the water, and ready to fire upon whatever emerges that could be so horrible.
I spy the ship.
It's a lovely craft that I can tell is built for speed, with a hull that cleaves the water clear in two, and massive white sails, billowing heroically. This ship is truly a marvel, but now a dread sweeps over me; what's it here for?
I catch the glint of an object onboard a man begins pulling out of nowhere. It looks like some sort of weapon. I reach for the spyglass my father gave me, and I realize it's not the instrument of destruction I was expecting:
It's some sort of brass wind instrument.
As the ship draws nearer I begin to wonder about their intentions again as I catch another glint, and upon further examination, it's another man with a horn. A third man appears as well, this time with a drum.
The boat is now quite close, and the shore is now clear, save the men and their weapons. I rush back to the beach.
"Wait!" I yell, gasping.
"Wot?" asks a tall man with a shotgun; he was balding and wearing grey slacks, shirt, and anything else that seemed to be lacking in color.
"Did you catch that glimmer off the ship?"
"Yes, you mean the glare from his lens?"
"Lens?" I'm a little confused now.
"For his rifle!"
I realize there must be some sort of mistake; these guys aren't here for some sort of fight, and I have the feeling I should inform the fellows on the shore about this...
"That wasn't a rifle! It was a horn!"
"So? Listen, who says these guys are here to make music?" he said, spitting out his last words with foul sarcasm.
"Ask the chap with the drum" I spat back, as the ships anchor splashed overboard and the musicians began boarding smaller boats to reach the shores.
"Out of my way, punk."
He shoved me aside.
"Men!" he shouted arrogantly, as the others turned thir gazes on him.
"Prepare to fight!"
I looked on in disbelief as the first boat hit the shore, the man in charge fired the first shot, splintering the shocked oarman's paddles.
"We know who you are!" the tall man sneered.
Surprisingly though, they kept paddling towards us.
I decide to run out to the boats.
"On five" The man shouted "we fire together!"
"But sir" I heard one woman begin to protest "we'll hit th-"
"Never mind the boy, we have pirates to kill!"
A wave nearly knocked me over as I froze dead in my tracks. Pirates? I stopped and thought about the remote possibility that they were. How could they be? They hadn't fired shots, or done anything vicious, I thought. No. They couldn't be.
I turned back towards the shore. I was proud to see that everybody had their shotgun facing the sand. Except for one, which I regret to inform you, was pointed directly at me.
With a bang, I feel searing lead tear down my shoulder as I double over in agony, crimson pain running the gold sand red. I really begin to wonder how soon it'll be before I'm dead, as a strong pair of arms lift me off the the damp sand and continue towards the shore. Just about everything else is now a blur. I remember, fading into the background, were the screams of the man who shot me, as he was dragged off into the woods. Presumably for a stern talking to, or possibly something a bit more... severe.
I soon fade past the belt of conciousness and reawaken in my bed. I feel some pain in my shoulder where they took out the bullets while I was out. Things start coming back to me. As I get up, I head for the kitchen.
My father is thrilled to see me up, and tells me what I missed. Nothing much, really, once I was taken to safety, he explains, the 'pirates', as was thought, turned out to be traveling musicians at sea, and they put on a free concert at the beach after the news came in I'd be alright.
"Dad?" I asked "Why did they attack?"
"What? They came and- Oh, you mean Allens?"
I nodded. He was the one who shot me.
"Remember that story about the pirate attack? When they came in, burned the town and left?"
I nodded again.
"Well Allens heard that- he also heard something else. The pirates came in on boats."
"So?" I asked. "Allens has a small rowboat, why didn't he shoot himself.
My dad chuckled a bit at the notion.
"Because these pirates" dad said in a psuedo-sneaky voice "had sails!"
"You don't say!" I said in a total state of mock-shock.
"And of course, if they have sails, it means that any other ship with sails is a-?"
"Pirate ship." I chimed in. Now this whole thing felt rather stupid, really. All over a simple technology to make the ship faster. Sails.

So what was the point of this story, really? Well, as I read The Pirate's Dilemma (brilliant book!) I decided I'd write some notes on it, expanding on what I've learned. I came up with the above story. I hope you've enjoyed it. The point of it? Hopefully (for you the reader) a better understanding of p2p technology. Can they be used for 'bad things'? Yes, they most certainly can, just like a ship with sails. That, however, doesn't mean they shouldn't be used for anything, but on the contrary, can be a fantastic tool for getting messages and information across.
I do, however, discourage using them for illegal purposes. Why? Because it violates the law. While it's quite true, and has been acknowleged many times, that copyright law needs much reworking if it's to meet the demands of the Web 2.0, many will begin to blame these p2p networks as massive 'pirate ships' in a way, not realizing their full potential, and what they could really be used for. Thus, the ships are threatened with burning, when sometimes they merely carry something far more innocuous and possibly harmless.
Piracy, I've discovered, isn't taking as big a chunk from the music, film, and various other agencies as I initially presumed. Why? Because pirates have a tendency to download, but later purchase items that they 'stole'. I found this quite interesting, but the fact is that (some of the time) the pirating of one thing or another is simply to evaluate. This isn't always the case, but on occasion it simply is.
So what's one way to S.O.S (Save Our Ships) and not be villainized? What I recommend is refusing to download things illegaly. It'll save us much blame if we can be blameless, and instead, diverting p2p traffic towards something more harmless, like copyleft software and music.
Another is to refuse to buy movies outright. By simply ignoring them in favor of purchasing secondhand, you hit Hollywood where it hurts most- the wallet. Let's invite them about the ship for a tour of what's really going on behind the scenes- and let's make it something good. The invention of p2p technology is of massive magnitutde, and an important root of the Web 2.0, which is also known as the read-write web, which means that you, that's right, you, have the power to shift things for the better. I simply ask that you do it. It's no big deal, at least, not for you, but it could affect the rest of the internet. Forever.

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