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Study information

Digital Copyright Law

Module titleDigital Copyright Law
Module codeLAWM170
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr James Griffin (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

In this module you will examine the legal rules and principles involved in Digital Copyright Law. In addition to analysing the substantive laws, you will consider the underlying theoretical rationale of copyright law. You will look at a number of diverse issues, from the historical technical development of copyright law through to more recent issues such as the rise of digital peer to peer file sharing.  By drawing on a number of legal and non-legal materials you will explore the complex social, economic and political context in which the digital copyright regulatory system operates. The module considers both US and UK law. The module requires a sound understanding of the principles of the legal system. There are, however, no specific pre-requisite or co-requisite modules that need to be undertaken. Any student may take the module but it is best suited to those who have some degree of legal knowledge.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of the module is to provide you with an understanding of the development of digital copyright law, and how this explains the operation of digital technologies today. We will assess current case law and statute through a critical lens in terms of the alleged purposes of copyright. The course is designed so as to make you think critically about the function of copyright within society, so that you can understand the broader cultural complexities involved. Students will learn transferrable presentation and writing skills, and the topics learnt will be useful for legal careers or computer science related jobs in computer security, particularly digital rights management or watermarking.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate detailed knowledge of the legal framework regulating stakeholders, namely right holders and users of digital copyright materials;
  • 2. Demonstrate critical and comprehensive understanding of the way in which the digital copyright balance operates, with reference to the theoretical, technical, and historical concerns;
  • 3. Demonstrate detailed knowledge of the proposals for copyright reform, and the process by which these have come about;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Demonstrate a high level of ability to develop, apply and critically assess international legal arguments, using a wide range of appropriate primary materials and advanced scholarship;
  • 5. Demonstrate critical and systematic understanding of the relationship between the various forms of regulation, from statute through to norms;
  • 6. Demonstrate an understanding of the theoretical justifications for copyright and their application within statute, case law and technology;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Demonstrate the ability to process and evaluate effectively a substantial body of complex and sometimes contradicting legal and non-legal information;
  • 8. Demonstrate the ability to be able to take their learning of the law and apply it to real life situations.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover the following topics:


  • Introduction to the technology principles of digital copyright law
  • Copyright Subsistence
  • Copyright Infringement
  • Copyright Defences
  • Moral Rights
  • Digital Rights Management
  • Peer to Peer file sharing
  • Watermarking
  • Possible legal reform;
  • Revision and overall summary of topics studied.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Schedules Learning and Teaching activities1510 weekly seminars of 1.5 hours
Guided Independent Study50Assigned seminar readings
Guided Independent Study35Research for, and writing of, formative assessment.
Guided Independent Study50Research for, and writing of, summative assessment.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1000 words1-8Individual written feedback (with oral feedback upon request)

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1002000 words1-8Individual written feedback (with oral feedback upon request)

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay (2000 words)Essay (2000 words)1-8Referral/Deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Bainbridge, Intellectual Property Law, 10th edition (Longman, 2018).
  • Bently, L. and Sherman, B., Intellectual Property Law, 4th edition, (Oxford University Press, 2018).
  • Copinger and Skone-James, Copinger & Skone-James on Copyright, 18th edition (2020) available on Westlaw.
  • Cornish, Llewelyn & Aplin, Intellectual Property 7th edition (Sweet and Maxwell, 2010).
  • Deazley, R. Rethinking Copyright (EE, 2006).
  • Jessica Litman, Digital Copyright: Protecting Intellectual Property on the Internet (Prometheus Books, 2001).
  • Lawrence Lessig, The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World (Random House, 2001).
  • MacQueen H., Waelde C., and Laurie G., Contemporary Intellectual Property, 5th edition (Oxford University Press, 2019).
  • Mark Rose, Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright (Harvard University Press, 1993).
  • Peter Drahos, A Philosophy of Intellectual Property (Dartmouth, 1996).
  • Vaidhyanathan, Copyrights and Copywrongs. The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity (New York University Press, 2001).
  • Vitoria and Prescott, Copyright and Designs, 4th edition (Butterworths, 2011).

Key words search

Digital; copyright

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date