Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Media and Communication


Communicating Copyright: An Exploration of Copyright Discourses in the Digital Age

Communicating Copyright 2

Digitalisation of media has brought longstanding tensions about the purpose and scope of copyright law to the fore, not only for those with a financial stake in copyrighted materials, but for ordinary users as well. Communicating Copyright: An Exploration of Copyright Discourses in the Digital Age was an ESRC-funded project led by Principal Investigator Bethany Klein from 2011-2012. The research considered modern copyright debates as involving a range of implicit and explicit justifications communicated by government, industry, artists and users. Issues underpinning the disagreement between different groups were examined through an analysis of various sources of communication about copyright, from government-commissioned reviews and industry campaigns, to public relations materials and the voices of users themselves.

Findings illustrated how copyright discourses play a strategic role in promoting the interests of particular groups and how justifications frequently draw on more general principles about creativity, authorship and property. Users offered complex, rational and cynical justifications of digital media activities, challenging superficial characterisations of users and demonstrating the value of users’ voices in policymaking processes. The research team, which included School of Media and Communication colleagues and Co-Investigators Giles Moss, Lee Edwards and David Lee, and Postdoctoral Research Assistant Fiona Philip, shared the findings through a half-day seminar for policymakers, consumer group members, researchers and industry professionals. The research has been published in articles in Convergence, New Media and Society, and the International Journal of Cultural Policy; a chapter in the SAGE Handbook of Intellectual Property; and the book Understanding Copyright: Intellectual Property in the Digital Age (SAGE), co-authored by Klein, Moss and Edwards, and published in 2015.


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