Back to speakers


Associate Professor @ Virginia tech University


Fabian Prieto-Ñañez is an assistant professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society at Virginia Tech. His research and teaching focus on histories of technologies in the Global South, particularly through the lens of media devices and infrastructures. He earned his doctorate in communication and media from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His dissertation focused on ideas of piracy, informality and illegality in the use of early satellite television dishes in the Caribbean. He also had worked on histories of computing in Latin America.

Geographical location :

Research Area and Interest :

Social Media


‘New’ Technologies


A Carrot and Stick Approach to Intellectual Property: Satellite Television in the Caribbean during the 1980s

In 1981, after nine months of concentrated effort, Jack Stuart, a Jamaican telecommunications engineer, succeeded in building a satellite earth station in Kingston. Following a trend in the western hemisphere, entrepreneurs began to build satellite dishes to capture many of the emerging broadcasting channels (like HBO and Showtime) for cable television in the United States. A few months later, The National Broadcasting Company rebroadcasted some of those satellite signals. However, Jamaica was not an exception in the region. With the use of satellites for developing cable television in the United States, new business emerged in rural areas in the US, and on both sides of the border, in Canada, Mexico, Central America, the north side of South America, and the Caribbean. 51 This paper focuses on copyright, specifically, the ways in which US authorities appealed to copyright law to counter what they saw as the stealing of American Culture. The main argument is that satellite dishes opened a new era of copyright enforcement, as bilateral trade negotiations pushed local governments to take action on intellectual property. Considered ‘the most blatant example of satellite programming piracy,’ Jamaica offers an instructive example for unpacking the life cycle of satellite dishes in the realm of international relations between the US and a Caribbean country. The case of Jamaica led to renewed discussions over the need to update copyright laws, which allowed the US government to include them in discussions over free trade agreements for the first time.

Links of Interest