Joyce’s thesis is a socio-legal and criminological study of digital copyright infringement in 

Australia, colloquially known as digital piracy. It examines how Australia’s legal system 

deals with allegations of copyright infringements of digital material using digital 

technologies, and particularly how courts identify and respond to infringers of digital 

copyright. I use descriptive analysis, network analysis, and thematic analysis of Australian 

court cases from 1990 to 2020 to investigate why and how judges assess what is digital 

copyright infringement, identify illegitimate copyright content, and respond to the 

challenges of digital intermediaries, liability and responsibility. 


Using descriptive and network analysis, I demonstrate how case law is used to define 

digital copyright infringement within a fast-evolving technological environment. The 

analysis shows that Australian judges often reference international cases to help navigate 

new legal questions to establish the basis of copyright and its infringement in Australia. 


Through thematic analysis of both civil and criminal cases, an unimagined social, digital 

pirate emerges - the intermediary. Often, digital intermediaries are found to be liable 

and/or responsible for digital copyright infringement. I find that digital intermediaries play 

an essential role as both regulators and the regulated within the regulatory strategies for 

digital piracy in Australia. There is a bifurcation of liability and responsibility that is unique 

to digital copyright. The end-users who access the unauthorised copyright content – and 

which are commonly socially imagined as the digital pirates - are absent from the legal 

process. This thesis suggests that end-users can take part in regulatory strategies and 

comply with the law. Overall, recognition in the courtroom helps acknowledge digital 

copyright infringement as collective action.