back to article Pirated software hard drive on display as art

A New York gallery is displaying a piece of “art” that consists of a one-terabyte portable hard drive chock-full of pirated code. Manuel Palou’s “5 Million Dollars 1 Terabyte”, currently on display at the Art 404 gallery in New York, consists of a single drive placed on a plinth, containing stolen code from Adobe, Nintendo, …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The 1990's Geocities style animated background image found by following the "LOG" link should be a 404, but it's no art.

  2. William Boyle

    Source or object?

    So, is this source code, or just distributed object code? if source, the value would be reasonable. if object, not so... :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Got to be at least 1 non reader asking questions that are irrelevant.

      Thanks for exposing yourself.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm potentially a billionaire then!!!!

  4. ElNumbre


    Wonder which lawyer will be the first to issue a 'take down' notice?

    Maybe they'll require that the art gallery blocks access to this 'content'.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very much Art

    Art of rubbing up the RIAAA , MPAA et al. Wow, I like the audacity and your middle para about "interconnected superhighway ........ percieved value.... some such."

    I think you can add some more value (millions) to it by multiplying and 130 Gig odd size of music files which have deprived thousands of artists of their livelihood, their dependants and countless generations of their royalties. ( 1 song = 2 million dollars- per the last court judgement). Also add the millions of dollars in "lost" value to the RIAA and MPAA mafia execs of their cocaine lifestyles monies. Multiply all of it by a factor of four for the negative trickle down effect it has had in the USA economy.

    Art indeed.

    My offer for the used HDD ! $50. Worth every penny.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Uh.. did you read the article? It never said that he distributed the music. If the "artist" didn't distribute the media, then there's no copyright infringment and the value can only be the standard sale price for the media.

      If you'd really been paying attention to all the RIAA/MPAA copyright articles over the last several years, you'd notice they don't go after people downloading copyrighted material; it's not worth the lawyer fees. They only go after people uploading the material. The thing is, using torrents (or other P2P clients) to download something also makes you an uploader and thus why they go after people using them.

      1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        But he is distributing

        In that he's trying to sell the bleeding thing!

      2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        Aha - but here is the rub..

        .. it means this art can never be sold or the RIAA (et al) *will* be able to claim infringement. However, this has an extra twist: in every case we are talking about ONE (1) copy of the protected works, so the usual gazillions that their creative calculations tend to contain do not apply here. In addition, all they have at the moment is the manifest. It doesn't need to be true, so they would have to prove the content first, and my intention to *use* the drive rather than use it as art (a bit like buying a product box because you like it).

        Heck, if I had the money I'd buy the thing just to see them try (and yes, you need money because they'd try the usual dragging-it-out-for-years blackmail), It would be fun to make them look ridiculous (um, *more* ridiculous) in court. All in the name of art, of course, nothing to do with the fact that abusers of IP laws deserve every bit of crap you can throw at them. Because that's the real abuse - their interpretation all but destroyed the original intention (which was IMHO in need of updating but generally sound).

        Art, definitely.

        I have no problem with the concept of protecting IP if applied properly - but that original aim was waylaid many years ago by milkers of the system.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        I'd be impressed if the artist has managed to accumulate 130Gb of music both legally and without uploading a single song (given most P2P clients by default share d/l'd files).

        of course he could have just ripped his CD collection to WAV.

  6. Velv

    OK, so who's going to be the first to "copy" it?

  7. Framitz

    I wonder

    I wonder what WD thinks of their drive being displayed as art?

    1. Chris Harden

      Considering how long my two WD external disks have lasted I would say it's somewhat appropriate

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If this is considered "art" than my music collection alone makes my one drive potentially worth 1.9 trillion dollars*. That's not counting anything else on it.

    *using the numbers that Tue worlds dumbest file shared Jamie was issued per song in court.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    If I were a Betting Man.

    I would bet the gallery are counting on hordes of visitors, mostly consisting of under cover MPA and RIAA operatives (patiently waiting for someone to buy it so they can pounce), to boost their own profits.

    At $5 Million per Terabyte, I am worth about $15 Million.

    Of course, I am here in CHINA, so HA HA RIAA, come and get me!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I knew the floods in Thailand were sending HDD prices up

    but that's taking the piss

  11. Heikki Härkönen

    Hiw abiut reproducing that?

    I wonder what artist, and RIAA would think if somebody bought that, and started to reproduce it?

    Artist might be ok with it, more name, bigger bculs from future works....

  12. Annihilator Silver badge


    "The piece is on sale, with the price set at the retail cost of the hard drive,"

    Bargain, I'll bite. To save on the hassle of downloading it all myself, I'd pay the price of a HD for it (and consider it a bonus).

  13. Annihilator Silver badge

    Honeytrap much??

    Hang on, I've just checked out the link to the manifest - a PDF containing links to the torrent(s) in question?? Cha-ching...

    Careful El Reg, the RIAA will consider you a facilitator...

  14. damian0815

    I'm disappointed El Reg is using scare quotes around 'art', and braindead commentors are playing along. Shame.

    This is a great piece, and the article's 4th paragraph mostly gets it... A significant chunk of contemporary art, including stuff that deals with 'new media' (internet/technology), is interested in why and how value gets assigned to objects (and data).

    And by pricing it at the value of the hard drive alone, the artist is addressing this again: cf Annihilator's post above, clearly to him at least the drive is worth more than the hardware.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Or to put it another way

      It's art because an 'artist' and an 'art gallery' say it is.

      Full marks to the man; he's taken a commodity item and labelled it. Gee whiz. I think Duchamp was doing that a hundred years ago or so...

      Art (n): that which an artist can persuade the credulous to pay money for on the grounds of allegedly perceived but actually imperceptible worth, bestowed upon it by the artist.

      (proof: if the drive were stolen and replaced with an identical unit containing the same cloned content, it would be considered a fake.)

      The flameproof one, thanks...

      1. foo_bar_baz

        @Neil Barnes

        What's being displayed is totally irrelevant. It's art because it highlights a matter of great contemporary importance in a rather clever way. See the discussion in this thread. Artist's mission accomplished.

        Back to your crayons now.

      2. Toastan Buttar

        It's art because an 'artist' and an 'art gallery' say it is.

        Exactly right. It's then up to the audience/critics to consider whether it is 'good art' or 'bad art'.

        “The most important thing in art is the frame. For painting: literally; for other arts: figuratively - because, without this humble appliance, you can't know where The Art stops and The Real World begins. You have to put a "box" around it because otherwise, what is that shit on the wall?” - Frank Zappa.

  15. miknik

    Black and shiny

    All the art critics who gather at my local car boot sale would love this

  16. Chad H.

    Time to update excuse list....

    time to cross out "I'm making remote backups - its a public service" and replace it with "I'm creating art dammit".

  17. earplugs

    Waiting for Version 2.0

    Is there no 0-day warez on it?

  18. Andy 70


    time was when "art" was a craft that took 100's of hours/days/months, maybe even a lifetime to produce, perfect, hone etc.

    now any poncey wuckfit with box frame glasses and an 'ironic' flat cap can put a mass produced bit of plastic on a pedastool, tag it with a metaphysical idea, and the self adulating masses come crawling.

    dat make hulk angry! hulk smash!

    f'instance. that massive stack of mecharno outside the olympic stadium with the viewing platform. why didn't they build some massive statues of olypians running, jumping, climbing trees (to quote Mr Izzard). i dunno. something inspiring, something that relates to what that area is?

    instead we get something that could on a lesser scale be stolen from the entrance of any commercial estate across the country. nice one.

    But we dare not critisize, for it is art, and we dare not be seen as uncultured. twunts.

    1. Eponymous Cowherd
      Thumb Up

      Zero artistic talent

      I'm talking about me here. Can't draw, sculpt, carve, paint or compose to save my life. I tend to judge "art" by how far above my own ability a particular piece is.

      So when some twatspanner does something like this, and calls it "art"..................

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        Seen in that context ..

        .. iI'd call it "f"art..

        Someone once told me that you could judge art by how many people talked about it.

        My comment that art would thus also include mooning tourists at Trafalgar Square with a photographer present was met with a stony silence, even when I pointed out that I could make Tracy Emin's "My Bed" practically every day if I just gave up any standard of cleanliness and started dating girls midst menstrual cycle (if you've seen it you know what I mean).

        But, I am not alone (in my opinion, not the mooning). Do a search for "Craig Brown My Turd" - and enjoy..

    2. Peter Ford

      It fits your criteria...

      I suspect that locating and downloading all the content, and then pushing though a piece of damp string (sorry, USB2 connection) to the drive took quite a few hours of time...

      And it is shiny...

    3. damian0815

      That time disappeared along with the advent of mechanical reproduction.

      There's a city in China (Dafen, I believe) that is full of oil painters who will paint whatever you like. Email them a jpeg and they'll send you back an oil-on-canvas painting for less money than it would cost to have it printed in large format at a copy shop on decent paper. With this is mind, what does it matter if you have 'skill' or not?

      Art has _never_ been purely about the craft. The great masters of the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th centuries were paid by the church or the state or the wealthy: people or organisations would pay artists to paint paintings and portraits because owning such things indicated that you were wealthy, powerful, and had good taste.

      The Modernists in the late 19th/early 20th centuries tried their hardest to throw all that out, but their work was driven heavily by science and technological development. Impressionism happened because of a packaging invention: rather than having to sit around as an apprentice learning how to mix colour, you could just pop down to the local art supplies shop (chemist, probably) and buy pre-mixed paint in little metal tubes, that was always the same colour, no need to mix your own.

      And then it continued into the 20th century.........

  19. P Saunders

    if someone buys it

    and were forced by the MPAA, RIAA, BSA and/or others to delete pirated software, files etc, would there be a case against said organisations for, say, vandalism, destruction of property or some such? Just wondering.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Cest ne pa un hdd.

    With apologies for my French spelling...

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Decadence to the top.

    And then some wonder how the western civilization will falter.

    It's not 'ART' it's ridiculous! Besides real hackers don't show off like that. It's just a NOOB trying to be interesting.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I'd argue it is art, it's just not very good and on a par with "black cat in a coal cellar" a concept, just not a very good one.

  22. auburnman

    Rule of thumb

    If the general consensus is it's nice or at least interesting to look at (or listen to, etc) on its own merits it's art.

    If someone has to explain what it is / is about to the onlookers who are thinking it's just a hard drive then it is attention seeking twaddle.

    1. Just Thinking

      Sometimes you need to have something explained before you find it interesting.

      Many people have unwittingly bought into "copyright infringement is theft" idea simply because they haven't thought it through. Show them a hard drive and explain that it is worth $5 million because it has loads and loads of compressed files of people singing songs, and they might start to realise how ludicrous the whole situation is.

      So, not some piece of skilled craftsmanship, but it might cause some people to look at things in a different way.

  23. LuMan

    But Is It Art??

    Well, of course it's art. Because, if you want it to be, ANYTHING can be considered art. Even the written word. So, here's my artistic offering:

    To put that drive on a plinth is the biggest fucking waste of time in the art world since an unmade bed and a goddam urinal. At least that huge pile of tyres LOOKED like something interesting - like a submarine! Anyone who stops to ponder the juxtaposition of the aesthetics of this device in the material world is an utter twat and needs fucking shooting!

    There - feel free to criticise as you see fit. I can't be offended by your comments as it's art. So there. Now, I'm just gonna sit back and wait for my Turner Prize to turn up......

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      To repeat myself, you ought to search for "craig brown my turd" and enjoy the article. At least with the bed I'm of the same opinion. The art discussed does have a few funny sides to it, so I'll sit back and watch the goatee beard types discuss it. It'll be fun to see the twaddle..

  24. Wombling_Free

    Would you get your money back....

    ...if you bought it and found out the only thing on the HDD was DEADBEEF?

  25. Ben Rosenthal

    "It's art because an 'artist' and an 'art gallery' say it is."

    Nah, it's art, because they gave it a name and put it on it's own little plinth.

    I quite like the statement, but maybe the execution could have done with more thought.

  26. Nameless Faceless Computer User
    Thumb Down

    There's a fine line...

    There's a fine line between art and "stupid." This is stupid.

  27. Bronek Kozicki

    "art" bit

    There are few things that look aesthetically pleasing to me. Black plastic box is not among them.

    Female body curves would. Or, if data must be thrown in the picture, particulary nice visualisation of thereof. Or even disassembled actual hard drive. But this? bleh.

  28. mark 63 Silver badge

    words fail me

    what a fucking Dick , The idiocy of the art world is now stealing from the tech world, the only notable thing about this is the capacity of the hard drive , and therefore the value of the stolen code , both of which are entirely and completely in no way contributed to by him.

    I hope they make this asshole pay for the software

  29. NogginTheNog

    Too late!

    The cleaner reformatted it this morning :-\

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Utter BULLSHIT

    Digital stuff can be replicated infinitely.

    Anything divided by infinity is ZERO.

    It is irrefutable maths that digital goods have NO VALUE.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Steak can be replicated infinitely because cows can breed and make copies of themselves. I'll be around your house shortly to collect my steak.

    2. Matt Siddall

      It is important to be precise

      Technically speaking there is a cost for the replication, be it in clock cycles, bandwidth, power consumption, or whatever. By your argument, since human beings can be replicated infinitely, they too have no value.

      It is also worth considering the cost of information, and the value of relaxation. Value is a very subjective thing.

  31. Nebulo

    Re that pedantry ...

    The missing few bucks from 5 million are what the hard drive costs now.

    Skull'n'crossbones for the piracy, of course.

  32. Esskay

    "According to the drive's manifest"

    I love it when art comes with DIY instructions...

  33. Andrew Norton

    Hasn't this been on display since the summer?

    I'm sure I read about it then....

    Yes I did

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