Cory Doctorow has long had a great sense of how to make things happening in the present work as exciting elements of near-future science fiction plots, whether it was 3D printing in Makers or virtual economies in For the Win. With Pirate Cinema he took on unethical copyright law, remix culture, piracy and pirate cinemas and created one of his most gripping and convincing novels.
The most important part of Pirate Cinema to me was the effective and sympathetic defence against draconian copyright laws. Cory depicts, in a very accessible way, how harmful strong copyright laws are to everyday people. When families can have every aspect of their lives negatively impacted by the mere accusation of breaking copyright, laws are not in the interest of the people they are intended to serve, and this story illustrates that masterfully.
Beyond the capable arguments for political stances, it’s a thrilling read that is in a league above much of what is marketed as young adult fiction. The characters are some of Cory’s most diverse and well rendered while the plot moves quickly and carries a lot of momentum up to the final pages. It’s a superb marriage of conviction and execution.
Trent McCauley is sixteen, brilliant, and obsessed with one thing: making movies on his computer by reassembling footage from popular films he downloads from the net. In the dystopian near-future Britain where Trent is growing up, this is more illegal than ever; the punishment for being caught three times is that your entire household’s access to the internet is cut off for a year, with no appeal.
Trent’s too clever for that too happen. Except it does, and it nearly destroys his family. Shamed and shattered, Trent runs away to London, where he slowly he learns the ways of staying alive on the streets. This brings him in touch with a demimonde of artists and activists who are trying to fight a new bill that will criminalize even more harmless internet creativity, making felons of millions of British citizens at a stroke.
Things look bad. Parliament is in power of a few wealthy media conglomerates. But the powers-that-be haven’t entirely reckoned with the power of a gripping movie to change people’s minds….