Metaphors and Norms - Understanding Copyright Law in a Digital Society


Summary, in English

This is a compilation thesis in the sociology of law, which analyses copyright law in three steps; the legal norms, the social norms and the underlying conceptions in their metaphorical representation. These three steps assist in answering the overarching question: "How do legal and social norms relate to each other in terms of the conceptions from which they emanate or by which they are constructed, and what is the role played by the explicit metaphors that express these norms?"

The thesis shows how the development of copyright in Europe, when faced with the digital challenge, has been resiliently path dependent (Infosoc, IPRED and more). In the thesis, this legal trend is put in contrast to the measured social norm strength of unauthorised file sharing before and after the implementation of IPRED in Sweden in 2009. The results show that although unauthorised file-sharing decreased to some extent, in line with the manifest purpose of the directive, the social norm that corresponds to copyright remained extremely weak. This is indicative of the undeniably existing gap between the legal and the social norms of copyright. Consequences of this gap are shown in the thesis. This gap concerns how the digitalisation of society not only affects norms, but also our language and mind, which is studied in the metaphors that are constructed from underlying conceptions. All of these are relevant to law and legal analysis, especially in transitional times.

In an attempt to explain parts of why there is such a distinct gap, the thesis proposes a metaphor and conceptions theory to complement the study of norms, by elaborating on findings in cognitive linguistics. It is argued that metaphors in law, and the underlying conceptions they relate to, are of vital importance for understanding contemporary issues in copyright, especially in the transition from regulating an analogue situation to regulating a digital one. The argument here is that how copyright is conceptualised controls how it is regulated and, in this case, leads to lock-in and dependence around certain metaphors that do not function well with the conditions found in a digital society.


  • Information Systems, Social aspects
  • Law and Society


  • copyright
  • file sharing
  • conceptual metaphor theory
  • path dependence
  • skeumorphs
  • conceptions
  • Norms
  • metaphors
  • InfoSoc
  • online anonymity
  • digital society.




  • Cybernorms. Norm processes in e-communities
  • Metaphors and Norms - Understanding Copyright Law in a Digital Society

Research group

  • Cybernorms-lup-obsolete


  • ISSN: 1403-7246
  • ISBN: 91-7267-335-4

Defence date

14 October 2011

Defence time


Defence place

Pufendorfsalen, Lilla Gråbrödersgatan 3C, Lund