Redefining Piracy through Cuba’s Film and Internet Distribution Platform
El Paquete Semanal and the Case of MiHabanaTV
Despite the Cuban government’s resistance to recognize legal independent status for Cuban audiovisual artists, coupled with some of the lowest official Internet rates in the world, Cubans have made an effective alternative system of distribution known as the paquete semanal. The paquete, an offline, somewhat legal, weekly distribution platform providing one terabyte of diverse domestic and global films, television programming, and offline Internet content, has made international headlines as a “subversive” challenge to Cuba’s centralized control through piracy. While the paquete tests the Cuban state’s influence, in this article I analyze how the paquete actually continues with and expands upon the Cuban government’s on-going practice of piracy. Building on Ramon Lobato’s exploration of the “Six Faces of Piracy,” I examine the paquete’s role in redefining the Cuban government’s use of piracy as resistance to a contemporary platform leading to daily access and increased domestic production. As such I examine the changing role of the paquete from international content re-distributor to primary distributor of domestic material made specifically for the paquete as is the case with Cuba’s first alternative television channel, MiHabanaTV, founded in 2016. With a close reading of the made-for-paquete MiHabanaTV and their seventh episode interviewing one team of the behind-the-scenes paquete creators, I show that an exploration of the paquete reveals one of the many ways that Cuba is not as isolated as it may seem and the paquete is not as anti-revolutionary as it appears.