Publication Year


ISBN: 9781552213537-13


Information Society Discourse, Innovation, and Intellectual Property

From: Intellectual Property for the 21st Century


This paper examines the discursive relationship between intellectual property rights (IPRs), innovation, and theories of the information society. Using Norman Fairclough’s method, Critical Discourse Analysis, this paper examines how the idea and rhetoric around an emerging information society have been used by neo-liberal policy-makers to strengthen IPRs. The paper argues that information society theorists such as Daniel Bell and Manuel Castells extol the benefits of innovation while failing to substantively address the issue of IPRs. Through their writings they present the process of innovation as a nominalized entity obscuring questions of agency and the power relations involved in production of information. More importantly, such writings have naturalized the concept of an information society making it appear as common sense and ideologically neutral while obfuscating the role of IPRs. In turn, policy-makers have used the positive and seemingly value-free discourse on the information age as a means of framing the need to strengthen IPRs. This paper includes a specific examination of two major policy documents produced by the Canadian government that were part of the recent copyright reform process.



Michael McNally

Michael McNally is an Assistant Professor at the School of Library and Information Studies within the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. His research focuses on intellectual property and its alternatives, with a specific emphasis on how both IP and its alternatives facilitate and impede innovative activity. Other research interests include examining various theories of the information society, radio-spectrum management and competition in the Canadian wireless sector, user-generated content, and the economic and social aspects of innovation. He received his PhD in Library and Information Science from the University of Western Ontario in 2012, and also holds a Masters of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Western Ontario. He is also a Collaborating Network Investigator in the Graphics, Animation and New Media (GRAND) Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE).