Conceptions of Copyright in a Digital Context. A Comparison between French and American File-sharers

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What type of metaphors do file-sharers employ to conceptualise copyright in a digital society? How do they understand property and intellectual property in this context? How do they conceive the file-sharing community and how does this ‘online piracy’ connect or not connect to law, social norms, copyright enforcement, and computational traceability? Given the historical variations in the inherent emphasis on ownership and attribution in copyright law within an American vis-à-vis a French continental context, are there, for example, noticeable differences between the American and the French respondents? By drawing heavily from conceptual metaphor theory, this article analyses findings from a large-scale survey (20,000 respondents) on online file-sharing. The results indicate that copyright is not seen as ‘property’ by the respondents at all, that a majority of the US and French file-sharers would prefer to be more anonymous online in order to avoid legal enforcement, and that almost one out of five already uses such tools. The results indicate that there is a difference in how the American and the French file- sharers understand or conceptualise the future of file-sharing and its relationship to copyright and that the French file-sharers focus more on the actual artists, while the American file-sharers focus more on the role of the industry and the government.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-102
JournalLexis - E-Journal in English Lexicology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Law and Society
  • Information Systems, Social aspects


  • the Pirate Bay
  • file-sharing
  • conceptual metaphor
  • copyright
  • intellectual property


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