The hybrid discourse of digital piracy
On the third day of trial of The Pirate Bay at the Stockholm district court in February 2009, the legal representative of one of the defendants used a strategy that was quickly to become an Internet meme. The lawyer – Per E. Samuelsson – argued that his client could not be deemed guilty of assisting in copyright infringement because the client had no connection to the person who had committed the actual crime in question. According to Wikipedia’s transcription and translation of this part of the trial, Samuelsson said that:
EU directive 2000/31/EC says that he who provides an information service is not responsible for the information that is being transferred. In order to be responsible, the service provider must initiate the transfer. But the admins of The Pirate Bay don’t initiate transfers. It’s the users that do, and they are physically identifiable people. They call themselves names like King Kong … According to legal procedure, the accusations must be against an individual and there must be a close tie between the perpetrators of a crime and those who are assisting. This tie has not been shown. The prosecutor must show that Carl Lundström personally has interacted with the user King Kong, who may very well be found in the jungles of Cambodia …
The term “King Kong defense” was quickly taken up and popularized in blogs, media reports, and news feeds commenting on the trial. The King Kong defense also became an instant classic among pro-piracy
advocates, as images and slogans invoking the meme were swiftly employed as building blocks in the, often absurdist and ironic, pro-piracy rhetoric surrounding a trial they felt to be a spectacle. The hashtag #spectrial – a combination of the words “spectacle” and “trial” – was coined by the defendants and used by themselves and their supporters during the hearings.