Pirates don’t only troll the seas. According to a book by Durant and Vergne, they download music illegally, they clone living things, and do any number of actions typically banned by authorities. But not individuals who do illegal activities are deemed pirates by these authors. They define pirates as follows as sharing the following features:
they enter into a conflictive “relationship” with the state, especially when the state claims to be the sole source of sovereignty; they operate in an organized manner on uncharted territory, over which the state typically claims sovereign control; they develop, as alternative communities, a series of discordant norms that, acording to tehm, should be used to regulate uncharted territory; and ultimately, very ideas of sovereignty and territory by contesting the state’s control and the activities of the legal entities that operate under its jurisdiction, such as for-profit corporations and monopolies.
The book is interesting and takes and objective view, but takes a very narrow view of what a pirate is. Some of the more interesting discussion describes the difference between corsairs and pirates. Corsairs and pirates that operate under state sanction. The country that controls the corsairs typically view them as legitmate whereas the entity that is the subject of the corsair attack often claims they are pirates. Thus, the difference between a corsairs can often be one of perspective.
One of the more confusing portions discusses the topic of patent trolls. Large organizations buy up unused patents and use the patents to sue other organizations for using these patents. Patent troll organizations often operate in the U.S. where patent law is more plaintiff-friendly. However, it is unclear why patent trolls would be seem as pirates. The trolls act to reinforce the existing patent law. Other entities that create items that would violate patent law would seem like a more reasonable example of pirates.
Examples of “pirates” abound today. This morning, I read a story concerning the use of private cars to transport individuals in my home, the San Francisco Bay Area. Companies such as Lyft and Uber offer private car/limousine services; these services, however, operate outside the current taxi and limousine licensing laws.
Overall, the book presents an interesting concept, but is not a riveting read. I would recommend skimming it for some key instructive points, since–after the first few chapters–the book is basically a collection of examples.
- Rodolphe Durand and Jean-Philippe Vergne. The Pirate Organization: Lessons from the Fringes of Capitalism.
- Economist Review.