Karl Renner and (Intellectual) Property – How Cognitive Theory Can Enrich a Sociolegal Analysis of Contemporary Copyright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article deals with copyright regulation meeting the quite rapid societal changes associated with digitization, and it does so by reinterpreting Karl Renner's classical texts in the light of contemporary cognitive theory of conceptual metaphors and embodiment. From a cognitive theory perspective, I focus on the notion that the legal norms only appear to be unchanged—the Renner distinction between form and function. This includes social norms, technological development, and changes in social structures in general, which create a social and cognitive reinterpretation of law. This article, therefore, analyzes the contemporary push for copyright as property, which I relate to historical claims for copyright as property as well as de facto legal revisions in intellectual property faced with the challenges of digitization. Of particular relevance here is what Renner described in terms of property as an “institution of domination and control,” and thus the increased measures for control that are added to a digital context in the name of copyright.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Law and Society


  • property, intellectual property, copyright, metaphors, control, corporeal, substratum, conceptual legal change
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-33
JournalLaw & Society Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch

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