Copyright’s Demand Side

As long as we’re writing about interesting recent reads, I have one: I’ve enjoyed Grant McCracken’s blog so much that I went and looked up his academic work. The book is Culture and Consumpti0n: New Approaches to the Symbolic Character of Consumer Goods and Activities (1988), and it’s still in print and available at fine bookstores online.

On its own, the book is an updating and reworking of Veblen and Simmel, offering a historical and anthropological account of the idea of the consumer, particularly as that idea has been expressed through fashion.

What’s interesting about the book is that McCracken constructs a full-blown theory of consumer behavior in relation to material culture — objects — that folks who do law and policy can think about in the context of copyright and other information law contexts. McCracken’s theory may be incomplete, and it may even be wrong and/or superseded by more recent work. But it raises a provocative question: what the law might learn if it took its cues from problems and solutions on the demand side, rather than the supply side. How do we give conceptual content to what rhetoric calls “the commons”? Legal scholars seem to have discovered this approach only relatively recently. Brett F. has, of course, been working on modeling some this; Joe Liu and Julie Cohen have been writing about “playful” consumers, and coincidentally (given my recent reading), Chris Sprigman and Kal Raustiala have a new paper up on SSRN that takes up demand-driven attributes of the fashion industry. But there is a lot of work to be done here.

3 thoughts on “Copyright’s Demand Side

  1. “How do we give conceptual content to what rhetoric calls “the commons”?

    Too abstract for me, as a noncognoscienti. Mind being a little more explicit, so I can ponder the challenge?

  2. Read Sprigman and Raustiala. They’ve got concrete examples, which are better than my abstractions.

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