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Social construction of copyright : the popular production of communication-based legality

Thomson, John Crawford, 1977- dissertant

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  • Creator by John Crawford Thomson, Jr
  • Format Books
  • Publication Ann Arbor, MI : ProQuest LLC, 2013.
  • Physical Details
    • v, 219 leaves : illustrations (some color) ; 29 cm
  • OCLC ocn860908437


  • Individuals often use less-than-perfect legal knowledge as the foundation of their perceptions of the law, which can impact the decision-making process. Using concepts from mass communication effects in conjunction with legal consciousness, this dissertation argues that focusing on legal communication provides a new way to analyze law in society. The ultimate goal of the study is to use mass communications theory as a framework to understand the social construction of law as a mutual interaction between legal rules and individuals. Intensive interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 44 individuals who identify as music producers, DJs, zine makers, fanartists, Startup Weekend participants, and undergraduate web design students, to determine how the groups collectively construct intellectual property law through their knowledge and practice. A deductive analysis focused on the cognitive principles used in mass communications effects studies, and emergent theming explored how intellectual property law obliquely informs social norms of sharing. An iterative strategy of deductive and inductive coding of the audio data led an analysis to develop themes describing the groups' interaction with copyright law, as well as targeted seeking of evidence of the mental frameworks of heuristics, elaborations, and group prototypicality. The results of the study found a variety of mental shortcuts, which were used to minimize the need to consider the law in everyday life. Additionally, elaborative descriptions (often of resistance to the law) revealed how group members perceived the relationship between their activity and the law. By using cognitive factors to understand how legal messages are received, we find a method to describe the ways that a law - or a given group's experience of the law - is lived in daily life. Patterns in the heuristics and elaborations reveal the important role of cognition in the reception and processing of legal messages. The findings of the study show that a direct impact of law cannot be expected, and that cognitive effects might explain how individuals and groups construct the law.


  • Advisor: Robert E. Drechsel.
  • Ph.D. University of Wisconsin--Madison 2013.
  • Includes bibliographical references (leaves 192-205).