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Pirate Cinema by C. Doctorow

Doctorow, Cory. Pirate Cinema. New York, NY: Tor Teen, 2012. Print.

In the near future, the Internet is not an extra, but a necessity. Without access, not only will you lose the ability to connect with friends and surf for entertainment, but you will be unable to graduate because you can’t hand in your assignments, you will lose your health benefits, and perhaps even lose your job. In Cory Doctorow’s Pirate Cinema, this disaster overtakes Trent McCauley’s family. Trent loves to make movies. Unfortunately, like many of today’s teens, he creates his content by ‘remixing’ others’ videos, images and music. In a world where copyright laws have become oppressive and corporations rule the government, Trent is seen as a thief. He is caught, and as a consequence, his family is cut off from Internet service for a year, and they suffer for his crimes. Feeling guilty and distraught Trent runs away to the streets of London. There, he hooks up with Jem Dodger (a nod to Dickens here), learns the ins and outs of street living, and discovers a vibrant and thriving underground community of artists and activists. Hooking up with the savvy and beautiful 26, Trent adopts the name Cecil B. DeVil and is soon creating movies with pirated material once again. This time, however, his videos have a purpose beyond entertainment; the downfall of the aggressive and brutal copyright laws that lead to his family’s predicament.

Doctorow, a blogger and an activist for changing copyright laws, and a proponent of the Creative Commons model of intellectual property, is not subtle with his message, and presents only one side of the copyright issue. Yet, given the direction copyright law is taking in response to the changing landscape of media and the Internet, and the looming specter of a ‘Big Brother’ Internet that can find out everything about you from your digital footprint, this is a message that teens should hear. Doctorow also puts his money where his mouth is: all of his books are available for free online, including this one. One of Doctorow's strengths is his ability to draw characters that are fully realized and that pull you into their story and their cause. His book is not all heavy doom and gloom, either. Doctorow knows his teens and their language, and the book has off-beat characters, hip slang and humour. Recommended for teens who are interested in social media and justice issues.

Recommended: 3 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Lissa Davis

Lissa Davies is an elementary teacher-librarian in Edmonton, Ab. She is a passionate reader, and is always excited to share new books and engage readers!