Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow is set in the near future in England where those caught illegally downloading movies can face punishments such as losing their internet service or time in jail. Trent, the book’s main character, is one of those caught illegally downloading. He loses internet access for himself and his family. This has disastrous results for his sister, who has trouble doing her school work without the internet, and Trent’s sickly mother, who has difficulties setting up doctor’s appointments without being able to go online.
Disgraced and feeling guilty, Trent leaves his family for London and falls in with a group of squatters, freegans, and general non-conformists. He learns ways to resume downloading films without getting caught, but Trent, who starts going by the nickname Cecil B. Devil, never downloads films in order to sell them. Trent makes no money off his films, which consist of clips from other films he cuts together. His films are funny and sometimes poignant. Soon, Trent and his London friends find themselves fighting to change Britain’s laws on downloading.
Pirate Cinema has slow pacing compared to Little Brother, one of Docotorow’s earlier YA novels. Too much time is spent on all the wild characters Trent runs into in London as well as on details about the technology they are using. But if you’re patient, Pirate Cinema is worth sticking with. It is also a somewhat frightening novel in that some of the laws the characters fight in the book have already been proposed or implemented.