Colloquium | Jessica Silbey

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - 12:00pm


Jessica Silbey

Harvesting Intellectual Property: IP Interventions and the Value of “Work”

My talk will be based on the empirical research I have done on the variety of ways in which intellectual property intervenes in the professional lives of creative and innovative professionals. I will speak about two particular aspects of the book project. The first focus will be the role of “everyday work” in creative and innovative professions. In particular, based on an analysis of the data, I will share the common metaphors used to describe the burden and value of everyday work and the diverse and surprising ways in which intellectual property functions in facilitating everyday work.  I will then contrast these descriptions and this analysis with the role of “distribution” – that is, how does the work that is made circulate and how (if at all) does IP facilitate dissemination. “Distribution” is the subject of the last chapter of the book and its hope is to better elucidate the “progress” rationale for intellectual property at the heart of the constitutional mandate. Interviewees describe varied means and motives for dissemination, compelling a more diverse understanding of “progress” than perhaps historical understandings of the clause have supported. The data for this book includes interviews with artists, filmmakers, writers, engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs, as well as their lawyers, agents and business partners.

Jessica Silbey is a law professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. Professor Silbey received her B.A. from Stanford University and her J.D. and Ph.D. (Comparative Literature) from the University of Michigan.  Professor Silbey’s work engaegs a cultural analysis of law. Professor Silbey recently co-edited a book about law and television entitled Law and Justice on the Small Screen (Hart 2012). And she is working on a book under contract with Stanford University Press called Harvesting Intellectual Property about the interplay between creative and inventive work and intellectual property protection.  In the book, she investigates common and conflicting narratives within legal institutions and private organizations that explain and dispute intellectual property protection in the United States. She is especially interested in the connections between cultural narratives of creation, discovery, incentive and labor and their legal counterparts in cases, statutes and private disputes. The empirical dimension of this project (conducting and analyzing interviews with individuals in IP-rich fields) is on-going.  Professor Silbey also has published widely in the field of law and film, exploring how film is used as a legal tool and how it becomes an object of legal analysis in light of its history as a cultural object and art form. Her research asks, among other questions:  how do cultural perceptions about film affect its evaluation by jurors, advocates and judges? How might legal actors and lay citizens mobilize the audiovisual technology of our twenty-first century to further the promises of our justice system?  What are the risks involved in using film and video in legal disputes?  Professor Silbey teaches courses in constitutional law, trademarks and copyrights.  Before becoming a law professor, Professor Silbey was a litigator at Foley Hoag LLP in Boston. She also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Robert E. Keeton on the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts and to the Honorable Levin Campbell on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Professor Silbey teaches courses in constitutional law, trademarks and copyrights.

Cinema Studies Program
209A Fisher-Bennett Hall ⋅ 3340 Walnut Street ⋅ Philadelphia, PA 19104 ⋅ (215) 898-8782