Article InformationEdit

Title: A Rhetorical Analysis of Competing Copyright Conceptualizations, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Creative Commons

Author(s): LiAnna L. Davis

Affiliation: Georgetown University

Presented At: STiS 2008

Primary Topic Area: ICT Policy


The rise of the digital era necessitated the creation of new laws and the re-interpretation of old laws in the United States to accommodate technological change. One major area necessitating adjustment was copyright law. Because the digital file could be copied exactly without any degradation in quality, copyright needed to be rethought. No longer were the delineations between producer and distributor clear when the file was transmitted through cyberspace. And the new medium of the Internet collapsed time and space differences among creators, enabling works to be created collaboratively in a way that posed problems for existing copyright law. Two conceptualizations of copyright in the digital age have emerged in the last 10 years: the protection-oriented Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) and the collaboration-oriented Creative Commons licensing scheme.

While many legal scholars have examined the intricacies of the provisions of the DMCA and Creative Commons, few have examined the rhetorical underpinnings of the arguments advanced. In my presentation, I will analyze the rhetorical features and strategies underlying the discourse surrounding the creation of each, including Congressional testimony, websites, and news media coverage, to suggest dominant metaphors at work in the conceptualization of the DMCA and Creative Commons. In locating places of rhetorical agreement and departure, I move beyond the differences in legal texts to reveal the rhetorical figures that have come to constitute the polarized camps. My analysis suggests commonalities within the polarity that may enable a middle ground in conceptualizing copyright with today’s technology.

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