Digital Subcultures

Recent Articles About Digital Subcultures

This section addresses the validity of concepts such as piracy as well as questioning the core beliefs of copyright. We discuss especially the information paradox of a copy:

If you have a car and I take it from you - then you don't have a car anymore, and I have car. But if you have an information, and I take that information from you, now I have it, and you still have it, too.

Can information be stolen if it can be reproduced without any cost? As software is nothing more than the sum of information, can there even be such a thing as software theft or software piracy? This difficult aspect of information makes it a very specific good - much more different than any other good mankind had to deal with before.

One of our strongest topics in this section is piracy:

Bill Gates’ idea for a new software market came like a bombshell for computer hackers. After all, the hacker scene was of the opinion that every programmer could only have gained his competence through knowledge sharing.

However, Bill Gates neither wanted to share his knowledge with other hackers, nor he would agree that his software should be copied or modified by others without compensation.

Angered by opposition to this philosophy, Gates finally wrote an open letter to the Homebrew Computer Club, the first hacker club in the world. In this letter he accused those who used and copied his software without payment of being thieves. This new notion of an “illegal copy” caused confusion among those first youthful hackers, and this was the beginning of Bill Gates becoming unpopular amongst their ranks.

The economic success of Microsoft software soon surpassed even the development of the industrial computers such as IBM. The software provided by Microsoft was made more successful by Gates’ business acumen than anyone could have imagined. In the following years Microsoft conquered the software operating system market, initially with its product MS-DOS, and later with Microsoft Windows.

The prophecy of Bill Gates, that the computer market would once be dominated by software instead of hardware, became true. As hard as geeks had fought against the commercialization of software and information, Gates had defined an important term the first time: “software piracy”.

This volume covers the history of those turbulent early years, addressing the validity of concepts such as piracy as well as questioning the core beliefs of copyright.

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