Project Statements Press Coverage

Pirates of the Amazon - Documentation

"Parody... is imitation with a critical difference, not always at the expense of the parodied text." - Linda Hutcheon

"Pirates of the Amazon" was an artistic parody, part of our media research and education at the Media Design M.A. course at the Piet Zwart Institute of the Willem de Kooning Academy Hogeschool Rotterdam, the Netherlands. It was a practical experiment on interface design, information access and currently debated issues in media culture. We were surprised by the attentions and the strong reactions this project received. Ultimately, the value of the project lies in these reactions. It is a ready-made and social sculpture of contemporary internet user culture.

One day after publishing we received a take down request by the legal department of

This work was made as a trimester assignment in our study course, under the supervision of our tutor Denis Jaromil Rojo and our course director Florian Cramer. This page is now the documentation of our study work as required by the course.


December 9, 2008
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Project Statements Press Coverage


Interesting reactions we recieved during one week

Keywords: Parody, freedom of Art


"... Good art often puts common subjects in new relationships and makes you think about them differently. Good art can also expose a problem which society has not solved. This works on many levels. When art threatens power it is often banned by those in power."

by CB via New York Times Bits, December 6, 2008
Tags: art, society, power

"[The add-on] actually just linked two very simple tasks [...] It doesn't "enable you to download stuff from Amazon for free" [...] I think as a parody the project is great, exactly because it added very little to the actual state of things. It is only a mere montage of facts, but precisely points to a major contradiction in information society."

by Benjamin Seibel, via, December 8, 2008
Tags: parody, montage, information society

"What under-streams all aspects of the discussion till here is the old double standard mentality lurking in our (self)perception as artists and cultural workers: we would like to be autonomous (i.e. free of consequences for our decisions), but also relational (therefore socially efficient), and - of course - vastly accepted. Too bad, as in the end art is neither autonomous nor relational; it is just one of the multitude of human manifestations competing for attention in a surcharged environment."

by Calin Dan, via, December 6, 2008
Tags: art, autonomy, double standard


"For parody to "function" it thus has to reveal some kind of dysfunction in the original object, which it thwarts by inserting an imitating discourse aiming at its own breakdown: a parody is precisely a hybrid form which has always to be ready for change in order to produce new situations of disruptive and potentially wasteful communication. [...] Living in Denmark (although the example is of course global) this has been most evident in the debate around the satiric status of the Mohammed cartoons. It might seem like a far-fetched comparison but I think that The Pirates of the Amazon were actually hijacked by a similar logic of sensationalism turning the parodic function into something else."

by Kristoffer Gansing, Malmo University Sweden, via, December 6, 2008
Tags: parody, sensationalism

"Amazon is kind of doing the opposite for years now - placing ads on torrent-sites and the like, where you can buy the same item from Amazon you are about to download for free. Therefore 'parody' is indeed the right term to use for this plugin."

by Catil, via, December 6, 2008
Tags: parody, amazon, torrents, buy, download for free

"Freedom of arts is differently defined as the freedom of science, but this is changing. By manipulating digital information there is direct intervention into the sociual sphere. The solution of this dilemma has to do with realisation and voluntary agreements based on consensuality."

by Franz Nahrada via Bricolabs mainling list, December 10, 2008
Tags: art, freedom, science, consensuality


Keywords: Education, social commentary, censorship


"Regarding "critical scholarly work on the internet," Pirates of the Amazon seems a bit "lite" to warrant such a lofty moniker. It is a clever exercise/hack that demonstrates what anyone who is net-savvy already knows. Maybe I'm being too critical. Nonetheless, as a form of creative expression, I agree with Tobias's point about the importance of it being protected from censorship. If there is a critical scholarly moment to be identified here, I believe it pertains to questions of the censorship of particular types of software. If they were my students, I would encourage then to take that as the starting point of their next project."

by Dr. Edward Shanken, University of Amsterdam, via, December 6, 2008
Tags: education, creativity, censorship, software

"[..] I think there is an ulterior, perhaps unconscious motive in Digg users condemning the project. Most of them pirate games and movies when they're not at their respectable Web 2.0 jobs, but they don't want artists calling attention to such "radical approaches" for fear that they'll lose free and easy access to the entertainment that makes holding down a job more palatable in the first place."

by Jon Ippolito, University of Maine, via, December 7, 2008
Tags: jobs, entertainment, piracy, double standard


"... By linking the BitTorrent search engine [] to [] in such a way to reveal the 'links' between paid and free content, a critical operation is opened between the two sites that, in its turn, opens a debate over the evolution of property in the 21st century. Such critical scholarly work in the shape of software, Firefox add-ons and other methods demonstrates its force precisely when it is able to carry out what it conceptualizes."

by Tobias c. van Veen, McGill University, via, December 5, 2008
Tags: property, evolution, 21st century, software

"... It was a school project, and as a bit of coding ingenuity and social commentary, it has succeeded. I think the real issue here is that many people lack the ability to see something as social commentary, instead they'll see that something as made of pure, unadulterated hate, or illegal, or any combination of knee-jerk reactionary things."

by Ozzy via, December 5, 2008
Tags: education, social commentary, judgement


Keywords: Humor


"Before it was taken down, I managed to download a pair of wool slippers, a Brompton folding bike and a sweet KitchenAid stand mixer. Thanks, piratebay!"

by nigel999, via, December 6, 2008
Tags: download, wool slippers, stand mixer

"Great, now /. is guilty of conspiracy to copyright infringement by offering a link to a web page offering a link to a .torrent file offering links to trackers offering addresses of people that offer to share an application that offers links to web pages offering links to torrents offering links to trackers offering addresses of people that offer to share copyrighted content with you. There, I said it!"

by dword, via, December 6, 2008
Tags: copyright, linking


"Instead of seeking weakness in security and privacy, why do these circumventers not rather work on ways to reinforce the safety of society. In my view, these are pure rebels and anarchists bent on disruption of any restraint on their personal desires. In other words: They are OUTLAWS !!"

by Fritz Lorenz Doerring via New York Times, December 6, 2008
Tags: outlaws, anarchists, rebels

"fuckin stupid especially with the amazing price cuts amazon gives its customers, don’t get me wrong i’m a huge bittorrent fan not to mention i pirate just about everything i possibly can, but stupid shit like this is what causes amazon to jack the prices right back up to retail… this is the one time i can honestly say, fuck you"

by ..., via torrentfreak, December 7, 2008
Tags: amazon, amazing, price cuts



Project Statements Press Coverage

Press Coverage

Timeline from the release to this documentation

01-12-2008 Launch of
02-12-2008 Project appears on small blogs e.g. [1] [2]
03-12-2008 First major blog ( reports "Torrentfreak: Firefox Pirates Take Over Amazon"
This article makes it on the frontage (more than 2500 diggs)
Cnet picks it from digg and titles "Cnet: New Firefox extension turns into illegal free-for-all"
Take down request from, all the original content is removed
04-12-2008 Wired Online writes the article Wired: " Tossed Into Pirate Bay Jungle"
Artistic response: The reverse add-on is published on cnet (inserts amazon buy-tips on piratebay and mininova) by spanderfox

Course director Florian Cramer sends out Call for support: Pirates of the Amazon, taken down by to the mailinglist, to gather statements for this website, which will be turned into a documentation.
Email interview with NY Times editor Brad Stone NY Times Online: "Pirates of the Amazon abandon ship"
Wired Online titles Wired: " Add-On Hack Was a University Project"
Washington Post reports Washington Post: Firefox Add-On Alerts Amazon Shoppers to Illegal Content

06-12-2008 Slashdot community discusses Slashdot: Amazon Fights Piracy Tool, Creators Call It a Parody
08-12-2008, at the New Museum of contemporary art in NYC, writes: "Pirates of the Amazon" Creators Seek Statements of Support for Project
09-12-2008 This documentation is pre-released