Commons, Piracy and the Crisis of Property

  • James Arvanitakis University of Western Sydney
  • Martin Fredriksson Linköping University
Keywords: Piracy, Pirate Party, Commons, Private property, File-sharing


This article takes the politicisation of copyright and file sharing as a starting point to discuss the concept of the commons and the construction of property. Empirically, the article draws on a series of interviews with Pirate Party members in Sweden, Australia, Germany, the UK and USA; placed in the theoretical framework of the commons. We argue that piracy, as an act and an ideology, interrogates common understandings of property as something self-evident, natural and uncontestable. Such constructions found liberal market ideology. The article has two broad aims: to outline the different phases of enclosure, from the physical commons, to the institutional and finally the cultural commons; and to discuss the way that piracy highlights the emergent crisis in private property rights, brought to the fore by the global financial crisis and ongoing privatization of public resources. We conclude by questioning what new modes of enclosure are emerging in a digital economy driven by excessive data mining and centralized streaming services.

Author Biographies

James Arvanitakis, University of Western Sydney
James Arvanitakis is Professor with the School of Humanities and Communications Arts, research member at the Institute for Culture and Society and Head of The Academy at the University of Western Sydney. 
Martin Fredriksson, Linköping University
Dr. Martin Fredriksson is project leader of the International Career Grant research 'Commons and Commodities: Knowledge, natural resources and the Construction of Property with the Department for Culture Studies, Linköping University.
Special section: The Materiality of the Immaterial: ICTs and the Digital Commons