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.
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