The Pirate’s Dilemma | How Youth Culture Is Reinventing Capitalism

Matt Mason holds nothing back in his book ‘The Pirate’s Dilemma‘. It’s a fantastic read, and his perspective is uniquely cyrstalline; effortlessly tying points together while giving historical context to bring the picture into focus. A few points he explores in depth:

– The connections between DIY and punk culture.

– The origins and impacts of pirate radio and the remix.

– The foundations and impacts of open-source models and communities.

– Pill pirates and copyright trolls.

Excerpts below:


– The Remix –

In essence the remix is a creative mental process. It requires you to do nothing more than change the way you look at something. Albert Einstein once said, “No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it”; the remix is that mind-set crystallized. It’about shifting your perception of something and taking in other elements and influences. It requires you to think of chunks of the past as building blocks for the future. Scarface’s Tony Montana summed thi sentiment up with his mantra “The World Is Yours,” and his world has now been sampled to bits on records, T-shirts, sneakers, video games, and in other movies. Maybe if Tony were still around todaysaying “The World Is Everybody’s.”

Remixing is easy. It’s often the first place producers and sound engineers get started, and today filmmakers, game developers, and everyone else are using it as a base to jump off from as well.



– So who exactly is a pirate? –

A. That guy who sells bootleg DVDs on the corner;
B. Some dude with a beard and a parrot who might mug you if you
go boating;
C. A guardian of free speech who promotes efficiencyand creativity, and who has been doing so for centuries.
The correct answer is all of the above. A pirate is essentially anyone who broadcasts or copies someone else’s creative property without paying for it or obtaining permission.  First things first: some acts of piracy are quite simply theft. Every
year industry loses billions to piracy. Companies sufferators lose earnings, and people lose their jobs.



– The Three Habits of Highly Effective Pirates –

From the birth of America to the birth of the Internet, it is often left to pirates to chart the winds of change and plot better courses for the future. When pirates start to appear in a market, it’s usually an indication that it isn’t working properly.

When governments and markets recognize the legitimacy of what these pirates are doing, their activities are enshrined in new laws, creating a new order that serves society better.

We live in a new world where things we used to pay for, such as music, movies, and newspapers, are now available for free. But things that used to reproduce for free, such as seeds and pigs, have to be paid for. This is a world where we all need to understand the finer points of the pirate mentality:

1. Look Outside of the Market

Entrepreneurs look for gaps in the market. Pirates look for gaps outside of the market. There was no market for Hollywood films before William Fox and friends. There was no market for commercial radio in Europe before pirate DJs. Pirates
have proved that just because the market won’t do something, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.

2. Create a Vehicle

Once pirates find a space the market has ignored, they parka new vehicle in it and begin transmitting. Sometimes this new vehicle becomes more important, or as Marshall McLuhan put it, the medium becomes the message. The platform that pirate DJs created was more important than rock ’n’ roll. The idea of the “blog” had a much greater impact than the picture of Cary Grant dropping acid on Justin’s Home Page.

3. Harness Your Audience

When pirates do something valuable in society, citizens support them, discussion starts, and laws change. It is the supporters that pirates attract that enable them and their ideas to go legit. Kiss FM got a license thanks to its listeners. Roh Moohyun became president thanks to citizens using the pirate mentality on his behalf. Entire nation-states are supporting pill pirates to save lives.

Power to the Pirates

Piracy has gone on throughout history, and we should encourage it. It’s how inefficient systems are replaced. Wherever you tune in, somewhere you will find a pirate pushing back against authority, decentralizing monopolies, and promoting the rule of the people: the very nature of democracy itself. The pirate mentality is a way to mobilize communities, drive innovation, and create social change. By thinking like pirates, people grow niche audiences to a critical mass and change the mainstream from the bottom up.

They’ve toppled more inefficient corporate pyramids than they’ve invented styles of music, and as long as there are people or choices not being represented in the marketplace, there will always be pirates pushing the envelope. Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Pirates are some of the most committed citizens we’ve got. Many pirates aren’t just copying the work of others. Some give this work new meaning by broadcasting it somewhere else. But as we shall now see, there are pirates reinventing the work of others entirely, using a process that gives them a unique perspective, a powerful tool we can all use to create change.


Mason backs up his ethos by offering ‘The Pirate’s Dilemma here as a ‘Name Your Own Price’ download. Here’s Matt’s Twitter as well.