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Back in Business

Blogging has its own momentum, and if you get out of your groove, it can be hard to find it again. So it has been for me these last few weeks. As a reintroduction, here are a couple of thoughts coming out of my conference experience last weekend at Con/Texts of Invention at Case Western Reserve.

As the conference website suggests, the conference featured an array of scholars with an impressive range of interests in intellectual property law and policy. There were a few of us law folks, but the bulk of the presentations and the attendees were from the humanities and social sciences. Economics was represented as well. I was chair and commenter for a panel featuring three papers on the Creative Commons — one of which addressed CC as an ideology, one of which addressed CC as legal doctrine, and one of which addressed CC as a cultural movement.

I suspect (and hope) that all of us who were there came away inspired to expand our various research approaches, and to continue to reach out to other disciplines for insights about the why’s and what’s and how’s of IP. If I were to unify those approaches, though, it would be under the banner of “the ethnographic turn” in IP analysis. In that respect the conference had much thematically in common with the recent Cultural Environmentalism conference at Stanford. But comparing this conference to law-based conferences on related topics, there were some important distinctions. I sensed a real humility among the non-lawyers at Case regarding the limits of their various disciplines. The beliefs and practices of academic lawyers vary widely when it comes to prescriptive scholarship. The disciplinary presumption that we should prescribe, however, is fairly strong.