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




The increasing incidence of illegal downloading among ordinary media consumers has cast copyright as a central component of contemporary conversations about and activities around the creative industries.

Industry workers are intent on controlling copyright in the face of changing technologies, policymakers are concerned with the effect of illegal downloading on the larger cultural economy, ISPs are forced to defend their roles and responsibilities, and users are navigating morally and legally murky terrain in their pursuit of digital media.

The maintenance of copyright as the foundation on which a healthy creative industry depends is reflected in government policies such as the Digital Economy Act, but such efforts to justify copyright protection are not always successful: smaller producers, ISPs and users all offer alternative views of copyright and its role.

This project aims to explore the complex and varied justificatory discourses about copyright, using the music industry as a key context through which they can be examined.

Justificatory discourses represent an attempt to generate legitimacy for the positions of these various parties in the debate and to support the symbolic power that each claims in the process.

Copyright may be a shared topic among these interested groups - media audiences, media producers, ISPs and policymakers - but the nature of the discourses circulated within these groups are not always in tune.

Focusing in particular on the discussions surrounding the formation, development and implementation of the Digital Economy Act, this research will shed light on the complexities of the copyright debate in the digital age by exploring why and how users, policymakers, internet service providers and producers construct, distribute and maintain ideological justifications around copyright.

It will consider general themes used to frame different copyright discourses: the roles allocated to users, policymakers, internet service providers and producers in copyright discourses; the interaction between roles and the principles that underlie different ideological perspectives; differences and commonalities between these ideological perspectives; and the implications of these findings for policy, practice, and scholarly knowledge.

Publications and outputs

Edwards L, Klein B, Lee D, Moss G, Philip F. 2014. Communicating Copyright: Discourse and Disagreement in the Digital Age. In: David M; Halbert D (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Intellectual Property. London: SAGE

Edwards L, Klein B, Lee D, Moss G, & Philip F. 2013. ‘Isn’t It Just a Way to Protect Walt Disney’s Rights?’: Media User Perspectives on Copyright. New Media and Society. 17(5): pp. 691-707

Edwards L, Klein B, Lee D, Moss G, & Philip F. 2013. Framing the Consumer: Copyright Regulation and the Public. Convergence: the Journal of Research into New Media Technologies. 19(1), pp. 9-24

Edwards L, Klein B, Lee D, Moss G, & Philip F. 2015. Discourse, Justification, and Critique: Towards a Legitimate Digital Copyright Regime? International Journal of Cultural Policy. 21(1), pp. 60-77

Klein B, Moss G, & Edwards L. 2015. Understanding Copyright: Intellectual Property in the Digital Age. London: SAGE.