For Kate Taylor's column Sharing copyright material online not a simple case of David versus Goliath, published on Friday, 12 Feb, 2016, we exchanged a couple emails where she asked me 6 questions. Since I am only quoted once, I thought I would share our complete interview:

The questions and answers

If my response was quoted in the column, I have highlighted it.

1. Can you tell me a bit about yourself: I understand you are an American citizen who is doing a PhD at the University of Melbourne. What's your topic?

Yes, I'm an American citizen. My partner is Australian & our kids are dual citizens. I am doing a practice-led PhD in Visual Art at the University of Melbourne. The topic is constantly evolving: at the core I have been trying to describe the essay as more as a methodology than a particular literary form; and recently I have been focusing on live essays, especially in some recent lectures or videos that I've made.

2. What is the purpose of AAAARG? How many books are available on the site? (Also, should I be spelling that with 4 As or 5?)

AAAARG was created with the intention of contributing to the development of critical discourse outside of an institutional framework. It is similar in spirit to another one of my projects, The Public School (which I started several years later in 2007). TPS allows anyone to propose something that they would like to learn about and uses the internet to gather other interested people who work together to further develop the proposal. The school then attempts to organize certain proposals into real, physical classes. (In a way it is an inversion of how universities have approached the internet via online learning.) While both platforms are totally open, they both were launched within communities of creative and politically involved people and so the sensibilities of each of the platforms has been oriented by those initial participants.

How many books are available on the site? I don't know. I'm not being glib! There are 4204 pages of 10 things per page, so there are 42,040 things. Those include excerpts, chapters, books, zines, article collections, government documents, policy papers, manuals, theses, commonplaces, etc. I don't know how many of each thing there are.

And you can use as many A's as you want to.. I will change it from one sentence to the next.

3. Why did you choose that name for the site?

It was initially an acronym, but I have kept that acronym to myself from the beginning because the guttural nonsense (especially when paired with ORG) just felt like a better name. The original name would have overdetermined things, whereas AAAARG is more open-ended.

4. Some of your supporters have called it a piracy site. Is that how you would describe it?

There have been a lot of vocal supporters recently, so I haven't seen everything that people have said but I haven't seen anyone call it that. (Well there has been one person in particular who has been calling it that.) There are articles like (http://scroll.in/article/802182/pirates-in-our-public-library-why-indian-scholars-are-closely-watching-a-court-case-in-quebec) but even there where it's in the headline, piracy is described as a "taint". Any website that allows users to post content (Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Academia.edu, Scribd, etc.) probably deals with similar issues. Other websites, like The Pirate Bay or Megaupload probably embrace it under the rubric of information wanting to be free.

Unlike those sites, which are for-profit platforms that sell user advertising or data, AAAAARG is relatively small, completely unfunded, volunteer managed, and as I described above, it has a very particular sensibility rooted in poetry, theory, and leftist politics.

AAAARG is unique (although similar in certain regards to Academia.edu) in that the vast majority of users *are* writers and researchers themselves. They tend to be independent researchers, adjunct faculty, or students, often people with precarious employment and irregular access to libraries. They use the site as a place to conduct research as well one place to distribute their work. It is a place where people can consult sources, quickly search for context for a quote, and efficiently determine what resources are relevant to their research. It is an invaluable resource to many as a community, set of tools, and milieu for public reception and digestion of ideas.

The community, having many designers, is also involved in creating the site's new interfaces for reading, including making multiple pages visible simultaneously, a text reconfigured into small multiples display; making networks of cross-references between texts, for example allowing you to read the page a quote comes from while not leaving the quoting context; and comparative maps of search terms across multiple pages; plus full-text searching across reading lists or within an writings by a single author. We've developed on open microphone radio station for broadcasting lectures and conversations on theory, curated annotated bibliographies, and built tools for clipping portions of individual pages into digital commonplace notebooks.

5. What is the source for the books on AAAARG? Who scans them?

For about the past 11 years, any member has been able to add things to the library and about 4,000 of them have. The things that have contributed are widely varied in both subject matter and in form: sometimes it is the author themselves adding their own work, there are out-of-print editions, rare catalogues, scans of excerpts, unpublished documents, things widely available on the web. The labor of scanning is often performed by the person who uploads and further computational work is done by people who clean up the file or convert scans into searchable documents.

I have learned of publishers who allow (or add) their books into the library because it serves a preview/ marketing function - few people enjoy reading on a computer. Many want their arcane texts to reach as many people as possible and don't see AAAARG as competing with their sales. There have been 15 takedown notices in the past 11 years & I am currently being sued right now, so I'm not trying to say that there is never any copyright infringement. But when there is a specific takedown notice we always comply.

6. In his suit, Timothy Barnard alleges that, while you initially took down his translation of the Andre Bazin book of criticism What is Cinema? on his request, it was later reposted on AAAARG. What is your response to the law suit? When would you expect your lawyer to file your official reponse?

Yes, a few years after I removed the content from the website, it was re-uploaded.

Regarding the response to the lawsuit, I think that's a question you'll have to put to Cory. You probably don't want to read any more of me anyways!


Sean:
Thanks for this.
You say other ad-based sites embrace the piracy label. Are you staying you don't embrace or accept that label?
Specifically, on the issue of the site's name: is it a reference to the stereotypical pirate's guttural vocalization or interjection?
Kate.

I've described in various interviews over the years how to site began as a common place for discussion and development of projects for various networks of collaborators across the US of which I was a part (after I moved from NY to LA in 2002). Our education had put a lot of emphasis on theory, reading, and discussion and that carried over into a practice that used the act of reading and discussion as foundational for every project. I myself was transitioning away from a background in architecture and to an art practice; and had been involved in protests against Bush, FTAA, etc. and was a part of LA's Indymedia scene. The name Artists Architects and Activists Reading Group was very specific but also kind of aspirational in terms of bringing different people together (collaboration and mediation has always been an important part of my practice).

Considering that the site developed over several years organically through precisely these networks, it really never occurred to me that the acronym had anything to do with pirates until many years later when somebody proposed that as a theory for the name. (And not to be pedantic about pirates, but if that was the source of the name it would have been called YARRRRRR or maybe ARRRRRR). If any interpretation makes sense, I think it would be closer to the expression of frustration (https://twitter.com/hashtag/aaaargh) that was deeply felt when the platform started at the beginning of Bush's second term, or later with researchers not being able to find the material they required for their work.

Sorry to beat a dead horse here, but if you are wondering if - more than a decade ago - I created a piracy website and named it after a pirate sound then the answer is an emphatic no.

Some comments

In Kate Taylor's column Sharing copyright material online not a simple case of David versus Goliath, published on Friday, 12 Feb, 2016, I am quoted once:

"I'm not trying to say that there is never any copyright infringement," he wrote in an e-mail. "But when there is a specific takedown notice, we always comply."

This is an accurate quote - you can see the complete questions and answers above. It is interesting that the only quote Ms Taylor chose is the one where I "admit" to incidents of copyright infringement on AAAARG. But not surprising. The tone of the column was already spelled out in her column two weeks earlier Cost of free information could be end of local news knowledge.

I am quoted one other time, but they are not my words. Ms Taylor decided to quote me through the Plaintiff who is suing me. Even though we exchanged a couple emails, she never found it necessary to confirm the quote.

Barnard says that, last month, in a post since removed from the fundraising site gofundme.com, Dockray said he was being sued by "certain malefactors of great wealth," which to anyone who knows much about Canadian publishing is a hilarious misrepresentation.

I didn't set up the fundraising campaign, I didn't write the description, and I didn't say anything of the sort. This misquote is the hinge of the paragraph, the entire column for that matter, as the title suggests.