Copyright is a bundle of rights granted to the creators of literary, artistic, and scientific works such as books, music, films, or computer programs. Copyright, as one of the most controversial areas of communication law and policy, has always been the subject of political contention; however, debates surrounding the subject have reached new levels of controversy since the 1990s as a result of the new formats of creative works made possible by digital media, and as a result of the new practices of authorship, creativity, consumption, collaboration, and sharing that have arisen in light of networking and social media. Technological change has not been the only driving force of change; social and political change, including changing concepts of authorship, the recognition of the rights of women and indigenous peoples, and the changing structures of international relations and international civil society, have also been reflected in copyright law. Copyright policymaking has become an increasingly internationalized affair. Forum-shifting has contributed to the proliferation of regional and international copyright policymaking forums under the rubric of stand-alone intellectual property institutions such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), as well as under institutions dedicated more broadly to international trade negotiations.
Communication scholars and others have contributed extensively to the field of copyright and intellectual property law. Communication scholars have made significant contributions in examining the cultural significance, political economy, history, and rhetoric of copyright, drawing on diverse fields that include cultural studies and critical political economy. Communications scholars’ influence in the field of copyright scholarship has been significant.
Culture is a broad term that is often used in a wide variety of contexts. Its meanings can be anything from very narrow conceptualizations such as the notion of high culture to a much broader view of culture being all-encompassing. In addition, scholars identify different types of cultures, such as regional, national, or even global cultures, as well as sub-cultures or cultures of shared social practices. At the social systems level, culture is often defined as relating to shared social practices, meanings, beliefs, symbols and norms. The relationship between journalism, culture, and society is a symbiotic one. Journalism influences culture, but it is also influenced by it. In fact, as some argue, journalism is culture.
While journalism’s influence on culture has found extensive attention in the cultural studies literature, cultural and societal influences on journalism have been far less researched. When studies examine broader media system influences on journalism, the focus tends to be on political and economic determinants. However, cultural influences also provide substantial explanatory potential when trying to understand why journalism is practiced differently across the globe. Culture as the broader system of beliefs and practices in a given society, as in the case of cultural values, has an established research tradition in cross-cultural psychology. Three key works on cultural values provide guidance for examining cultural influences on journalism, and involving these in research improves understanding of journalism cultures on a variety of levels. Both normative calls for the preferred role of culture in journalism, as well as empirical studies of the influence of cultural values on journalism demonstrate the value such approaches bring to journalism studies.