Against Progress: Intellectual Property and Fundamental Values in the Internet Age


Jessica Sibley


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Jessica Silbey, Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Law, Innovation, and Creativity (CLIC) at Northeastern University School of Law, was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship last year. Her research and teaching focus on law’s entanglement with other disciplines such as the humanities and social sciences. Her most recent book, The Eureka Myth: Creators, Innovators and Everyday Intellectual Property (Stanford University Press, 2015), altered the national conversation about creativity and invention, challenging the traditional economic explanation for intellectual property law and investigating the diverse mechanisms and motives for producing creative and innovative work.

This lecture was based on Prof. Silbey’s new book-in-progress, which considers intellectual property debates in law and culture as a bellwether of changing social justice needs in the twenty-first century. As the digital age democratizes technological opportunities, it brings intellectual property law into mainstream everyday culture. As intellectual property enters popular culture, it generates scholarly and public debates about the relationship between Constitutional “progress of science and useful arts” and other fundamental values – such as equality, privacy, and distributive justice – that are increasingly challenged in today’s internet world. Prof. Silbey argued that intellectual property law is becoming a central framework through which to discuss essential socio-political issues, extending ancient debates over our most cherished values and refiguring the substance of “progress” in terms that demonstrate the urgency of art and science to social justice today.

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