Economics of Intellectual Property in the Information Age
It is often said that the 21st century will be an information society: one in which intellectual property will drive the global economy, and yet, at the same time, free access to information and new modes of communication will create a more just civil society and polity. For all of the power of these ideas, there is little agreement on the definition of an information society in theory, on whether one exists or is emerging in practice, and the nature of the legal rules and technological inventions necessary to create a good or just information society. This seminar explores both the theory and practice of the information society: testing theory through case studies, and seeking the theoretical assumptions behind information policy proposals, legal cases, legislation and political disputes.
At the heart of current debates about copyright law and policy in Congress, on the net, and in the international community are some fundamentally different conceptions about the nature of intellectual property, its role in the information economy, and the kind of social order into which intellectual property can and should fit. This seminar asks how intellectual property rules might be framed so as simultaneously to allow the information economy to thrive and contribute to a just social order. It does so by considering social theories of the information society, policy documents on intellectual property and electronic commerce for the information society, and analyses of particular issues, such as the responsibility that online service providers should have for infringing conduct by users, the future of fair use in digital networked environments, and the social implications of technical protections for copyrighted works.
The seminar is deeply interdisciplinary in character, as the subject requires. Its instructors come from different fields, law and political science, and welcome students from a wide variety of fields. Insights from many fields are needed to construct a just information society and workable intellectual property rules. The seminar draws upon readings from many disciplines and perspectives, including social theory, philosophy, law, art, and business. Background lectures are provided as necessary, but the seminar will mainly feature analysis, discussion, and debate. Students enrolled in the seminar are expected to develop well informed and original perspectives on information society and intellectual property in papers on particular legal or policy issues or concepts.