On the Justifications of Piracy: Differences in Conceptualization and Argumentation Between Active Uploaders and other file-sharers

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


This chapter is, in part, about law and legal change. Law – especially intellectual property law – is greatly challenged in a digital society where media is distributed in global networks, for example via BitTorrent sites such as The Pirate Bay. New norms for behavior set up under new pre-conditions in an online environment have emerged alongside the legal, emphasizing some sort of norm-pluralism way beyond any traditional discourse on deviancy.

In April 2011 the Cybernorms research group conducted a global file-sharing survey with more than 75,000 respondents – the Research Bay study (Svensson et al., 2013). This chapter analyses the data from the open answers of this survey. Using this data and the establishing theoretical framework, we exemplify metaphors, conceptions, and the modes of justification that different conceptions of file-sharing reinforce and present a model for approaching piracy more systematically than in much of the contemporary literature.

When applying metaphors, this influences the ways in which one conceptualizes a given phenomenon. The ways in which one conceptualizes reality are tightly connected to what norms that control our behavior and how we reflect and justify our actions. For example, the market optimism among the non-uploaders in this study, displaying the notion of how the market can adapt and/or expand, describes the strength in how media distribution and culture dissemination is still conceptualized in terms of market metaphors, as opposed to early attempts in the scholarly literature to speak of ‘gift-economies’ and ‘cyber-communism’ (Barbrook, 2000). The non-uploaders (representing the majority of Pirate Bay users) are – when compared to the smaller, more dedicated group of active uploaders – more positive towards market solutions and the entertainment industry, and they are more disposed towards a non-specific, generic belief in the progress, evolution, and eventual convergence and assimilation of technology.

Since the notion of online piracy as a mainly illegal activity is a predominant perspective in the replies in the survey, the analysis of its justifications is highly relevant for the broader understanding of law and legal development, as a process, in an increasingly digitized society.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Work Sciences
  • Information Systems, Social aspects


  • conceptions The Pirate Bay, metaphors, the future, modes of justification, copyright, Online piracy, filesharing
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPiracy: Leakages from Modernity
EditorsMartin Fredriksson, James Arvanitakis
PublisherLitwin Books
ISBN (Print)978-1-936117-59-8
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch

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