Conceptions in the Code: How Metaphors Explain Legal Challenges in Digital Times

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Stefan Larsson's Conceptions in the Code contributes invaluably to socio-legal analysis and conceptual metaphor theory. By examining cases of digital copyright, Larsson elucidates the role that metaphor plays when law is accommodating technological change, displaying both conceptual path-dependence as well as non-legislative developments in law.

Analyses draw from conceptual studies of property specific to intellectual property. By using Karl Renner's account, Larsson demonstrates how the property regime of copyright is the projection of an older regime of control onto a new set of digital social relations. Further, through an investigation of the concept of “copy” in copyright, as well as the metaphorical battle of defining the BitTorrent site “The Pirate Bay” in the Swedish court case with its founders, Larsson shows the historical and embodied dependence of digital phenomena in law, and how normative aspects of the source concept also stain the target domain.

Larsson draws from empirical studies on file sharing and historical expressions of the conceptualization of law, revealing the cultural biases of file sharing and law. Law is thereby shown to depend largely on metaphors of embodiment. The book engages the conceptual and regulatory struggles of a multitude of contemporary socio-digital phenomena in addition to issues of copyright and file sharing, including big data and the oft-praised “openness” of digital innovation.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Law and Society
  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
  • Engineering and Technology


  • sociolegal analysis, conceptual metaphor theory, copyright, intellectual property, metaphor, file-sharing, the pirate bay, path dependence, skeumorphs, skeuomorphs, social norms, sociology of law, cognitive theory, embodiment, law, media consumers, platform, Karl Renner, openness, big data, liquidity, conceptual path dependence
Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages256
ISBN (Print)9780190650384
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Feb 23
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

NameOxford Studies in Language and Law
PublisherOxford University Press

Related research output

Katzenbach, C. & Stefan Larsson, 2018 Jan 29, Encore: The Annual Magazine on Internet and Society Research. Berlin: The Alexander Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Vol. 2017. p. 8 11 p.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

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Related projects

Stefan Larsson


Project: Research

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Related activities

Larsson, S. (Keynote/plenary speaker)
2018 Feb 8

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

Larsson, S. (Keynote/plenary speaker)
2017 Sep 28

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

Larsson, S. (Invited speaker)
2017 Sep 21

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

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