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The Pirate's Dilemma: How Youth Culture Is Reinventing Capitalism Paperback – May 5, 2009

3.5 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Music journalist Mason, a former pirate radio and club DJ in London, explores how open source culture is changing the distribution and control of information and harnessing the old system of punk capitalism to new market conditions governing society. According to Mason, this movement's creators operate according to piratical tactics and are changing the very nature of our economy. He charts the rise of the ideas and social experiments behind these latter-day pirates, citing the work of academics, historians and innovators across a multitude of fields. He also explores contributions by visionaries like Andy Warhol, 50 Cent and Dr. Yuref Hamied, who was called a pirate and a thief after producing anti-HIV drugs for Third World countries that cost as little as $1 a day to produce. Pirates, Mason states, sail uncharted waters where traditional rules don't apply. As a result, they offer great ways to service the public's best interests. According to Mason, how people, corporations and governments react to these changes is one of the most important economic and cultural questions of the 21st century. Well-written, entertaining and highly original, Mason offers a fascinating view of the revolutionary forces shaping the world as we know it. (Jan. 8)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Pirates bring choice and cause change. In this stunning book,Matt Mason forgets the parrots and the eye patches, but manages to teach us all a great deal. I learned a lot." -- Seth Godin, author of The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)

"Through a tornado of hip-hop beats and remarkable stories, Matt Mason takes us on a riveting journey to the heart of innovation. In this explosive book, he shows us that companies face a stark choice: Will you allow yourself to be gutted by a pirate or will you actually become one?" -- Frans Johansson, author of The Medici Eeffect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures

"Matt Mason free runs over a half century of global popular culture to describe the shape of our possible future. The Pirate's Ddilemma is a series of leaps of imagination, and it always lands with style." -- Jeff Chang, author of Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Ggeneration and editor of Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop

"This entertaining survey introduces us [to] today's copyright scofflaws, who may be tomorrow's bold entrepreneurs. 9 out of 10 stars." --Wired

"Reading The Pirate's Dilemma is like stepping into a parallel universe [that is] vast and deep...Mason nimbly guides us through decades of the underground youth scene [in a] tour [that] is diverting and written in a pleasing patter...Something more...than a business book [and] more satisfying -- more authentic, as he might put it -- than most books that rave about the Web 2.0." -James Pressley, Newsday

"An attractive argument...A theory that's pro-technology, pro-money and pro-youth all at once [and Mason] does a good job of proving it...For once, someone is telling young people that we have power, and that we're not selfish and apathetic but demanding 'a more democratic strain of capitalism' while still looking out for our enlightened self-interest." --Nona Willis Aronowitz, The New York Observer

"Well-written, entertaining and highly original, Mason offers a fascinating view of the revolutionary forces shaping the world as we know it." --Publishers Weekly

"Smart and thought-provoking...Mason has crafted a fascinating primer on the intersection of piracy, youth culture, and business." --The Phoenix

"Mason, a writer for uber-hip magazine-cum-branding-effort VICE, offers up an entertaining thesis...For the executive's nightstand." --U.S. News and World Report

"Wacky and intriguing stories." --Fast Company, "Smart Books 2008"
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (May 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 141653220X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416532200
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #573,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book is slightly maddening. The intention is valid: to steer people towards thinking about piracy in a new light. The "pirate's dilemma" is whether to persecute and shut down piracy, or to recognize it as a kind of creative competition. If you can't beat them, join them. The thrust of Mason's argument can be summarized by the two models of music industry approaches to P2P file sharing: either go the route of Apple and create a cheap, viable option for consumers, or the RIAA route and sue its customers.

As a former DJ, Mason cuts and pastes his way through the book with anecdotes. At first I found the approach a little obnoxious-- a kind of overly cheerful airline-style of magazine writing. As a former punk, I found the whole chapter on punk capitalism a little superficial, which lacked a discussion of a really important DIY capitalist, Discord Records. The section of the "Tao of Pirates" was also missing an important discussion of pirate culture, i.e. the black beard types that are so discussed so interestingly in Wilson's Pirate Utopias. I think the word pirate is used too general. Basically, anyone under 50 is a pirate these days, and I don't thing that's true. Also, the remix section failed to credit Dada.

But as I read on, I warmed up to the book and found the discussion of guerrilla marketing and hip hop pretty good. There was some history and anecdotes that I wasn't aware of, so I was pleasantly surprised here and there. Still, if you want a more in-depth analysis of the economic situation of open source, read Benkler's
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By M. Cobo on September 27, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This felt more like a collection of (extremely coherent and admirably self-referential) essays than a wiggle compelling narrative, although I did appreciate the author's nuanced understanding of piracy. The only real watchout is the length of the chapters; each one is incredibly dense and completely worthy of a measured, focused read, although it's hard to describe a book as faulty when in reality I may well have just read it too fast.
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Format: Hardcover
I think, if it had stuck to the brief it claimed to have on the front cover, I would have loved this book. But it didn't at all. This book has it's interesting moments, but it is effectively a chance for a former pirate DJ to try to convince you of three things. (I) Pirate radio is awesome. (II) DJ's are gods of the modern era. (III) Any and all significant cultural advances accomplished since the 60s are solely the result of music's influence.
Now, your mileage may vary on how useful any of those statements are, but I can't stand radio in any form, and DJ's typically make me want to punch someone, which means that the 3rd statement is the only one that could have any truck with me. Sadly, the book very much puts the cart before the horse. It is probable there's interchange, but for the author's purposes we're to consider EVERYTHING in terms of music. Then there's the way he uses Pirate in the book, it becomes a generalist term that applies to almost all innovators, which kind of misses the point of WHY piracy is an issue.
The books real gift is in teaching music trivia, and providing some form of introduction to Hip-hop as big business, but here he hardly does anything new, and he mostly hides behind pretentious words to make out that everything has meaning. Fashion is even glorified as emblematic of what our culture should be like. For someone who is on the surface offering a counter-culture account of the changes going on in the world and what the future will be, he doesn't actually attack much of the mainstream.
His only other really interesting assertion is that new youth-cultures can't form presently due to the instant spotlight effect that corporates give to anything with any promise in the constant quest for marketing.
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Format: Hardcover
Earlier this year Matt (the author) sent me a message and said that he was writing a book about how corporations have trouble adapting to the changing times and needs of people in the Information Age. Just recently he started his blog The Pirate's Dilemma ([...]) that explains this phenomenon further every day. I couldn't wait for the book to drop so I asked him to shoot me one...one was already forthcoming and it appeared in the mail the very next day via his publicist. Let me break it down for y'all:

As we all know, youth culture has helped to change and reshape the world over and over again throughout history. Ever since World War 2 ended and the world at large became aware that teenagers even existed, the world hasn't been the same since. The old saying is that necessity is the mother of invention, whenever there has been an overlooked or under represented segment in society they have made their presence felt by creating their own culture. This culture usually comes with it's own brand of music, dancing or a style of dress. Once this culture hits the public consciousness then corporations develop the need/want to turn this audience into consumers of their product and convey a message to them that they "get" you and support your lifestyle. The thing is that since the advent of cool hunting and mass advertising has oversaturated the marketplace people can just tune out all those advertisments. Furthermore, with so many advances in technology today the knowledgeable consumer can pretty much create their own products and cut out the big corporations.

Since these same corporations are trying to jump on that new niche culture to gain a cache of cool, these new niche markets/cultures have adapted to the climate and become harder and harder to nail downby ad agencies.
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