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Time-shifted morality: a critique of the legal discourse on online copyright infringement

Tito Rendas

Keywords: intellectual property; copyright; online copyright infringement; file sharing; Internet law; morality; legal rhetoric

Abstract

The article critically examines the discourse against the widespread practice of unauthorized sharing of copyrighted content on the Internet. Legal discourse condemning this behaviour and trying to persuade Internet users of its moral unacceptability relies on a rhetoric that lacks resonance and credibility: the ‘download as theft’ rhetoric. It is argued that this reliance is explained by an indifference to the fact that the deeply embedded norm against theft that we hold is maladaptive in the contemporary technological predicament. To explicate this, the article uses the concept of ‘time-shifted morality’. The article's hope is to serve as a stimulus for scholars and legal decision-makers to reconsider the rhetoric used in writing and arguing about online copyright infringement.

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