Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications

School of Media and Communication

Communicating Copyright in the Digital Age: Comparing Policymakers, Producers and Users

This ESRC-funded project was awarded to a team of researchers in the School and began in June 2011. The research is focused on the different ways in which government policymakers, music producers, and music users discuss copyright.  Copyright and associated issues about the protection of intellectual property have been a matter of debate for decades. However, the difficulties surrounding the protection of copyright in a digital age, where music can be reproduced by anyone, have prompted ongoing public discussion about why copyright exists, whether it is a realistic objective, and what alternative systems of property protection there might be. The Digital Economy Act was introduced in 2010 as an attempt to address some concerns being raised, but the discussions still continue.

The project aims to try and understand the debates between policymakers, producers and users in greater depth by exploring how they present the idea of copyright and various forms of downloading behaviour, how they discuss the various people for whom copyright is important – including music companies, artists and audiences – and what implications these findings might have for the development of policies and practices addressing copyright in the future. In total, the project will last 18 months.

The methods being used include an extensive analysis of documentation from policymakers and industry bodies, as well as focus groups bringing together people who download material from the web. By comparing the ways in which these different groups of people explain, discuss and justify their behaviour and the notion of copyright per se, the team hopes to make visible some of the reasons why copyright has become a seemingly intractable problem – and perhaps generate some options for moving the debate forward.

For more information about the project, contact the Principal Investigator, Dr Bethany Klein.

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