'You Wouldn't Steal a Car': Intellectual Property and the Language of Theft

European Intellectual Property Review, Vol. 29, No. 10, pp. 401-405, 2007

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 08/35

10 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2008  

Patricia Louise Loughlan

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: April 2008

Abstract

It is actually quite easy to tell a good guy from a bad guy when one of the guys is being called a thief. He is the bad guy. It is in fact quite hard to think of a thief as any sort of good guy at all once you have begun thinking about him, even just impressionistically, as a thief.

This paper will scrutinise and consider the legitimacy of the pervasive rhetorical use of the language of 'theft' in intellectual property discourse. That language, comprised of words like 'theft', 'thief', 'stealing' 'burglar's tools' and occasionally even 'robbery,' is increasingly employed to describe the unauthorised use of intellectual property, so that new social meanings become attached to acts such as the digital transfer of a musical file or a film:

YOU WOULDN'T STEAL A CAR
YOU WOULDN'T STEAL A HANDBAG
YOU WOULDN'T STEAL A TELEVISION
YOU WOULDN'T STEAL A DVD
DOWNLOADING PIRATED FILMS IS STEALING
STEALING IS AGAINST THE LAW

Keywords: Intellectual Property, Copyright, Infringement, Rhetoric, Language, Theft

JEL Classification: K14, K42, K30, O34

Suggested Citation

Loughlan, Patricia Louise, 'You Wouldn't Steal a Car': Intellectual Property and the Language of Theft (April 2008). European Intellectual Property Review, Vol. 29, No. 10, pp. 401-405, 2007; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 08/35. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1120585

Patricia Louise Loughlan (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

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