Intellectual Property for the 21st Century: Interdisciplinary

AuthorTeresa Scassa, Mistrale Goudreau, B Courtney Doagoo, & Madelaine Saginur
Intellectual Property for the 21st Century:
Interdisciplinary Approaches
 ,  ,
 , &  
Over the past two decades, globalization, digitization, and the rise of the In-
ternet have each contributed to a new prominence for intellectual property
law in public policy debates around the world. Once the preserve of a cadre
of highly specialized lawyers in large rms concentrated in major urban
centres, intellectual property law has become a subject of heated policy de-
bate in legislatures, a matter of almost daily news reporting, and the topic
of wide-ranging popular discourse. In recent years, we have seen corpor-
ations attempt to lock up digital content, bolstered by new international
treaties aimed at providing legal protection for anti-circumvention meas-
ures. Terms of protection have grown longer, and individual users have
become the targets of large scale enforcement activity that was previously
aimed only at organized or corporate malefactors. Debate has blossomed
over the extent to which IP laws limit both creativity and innovation. In-
tellectual property law has garnered headlines for its role in limiting ac-
cess to life-saving medicines in developing countries and is increasingly
linked to issues of democracy and human rights. Intellectual property law
and policy have become the stu of our daily lives as well: we are creators,
consumers, users, and sometimes infringers. Intellectual property policy
reaches into our lives through culture and its output, through the branding
activities of major corporations, and through the impact of patent laws on
the price and accessibility of a wide range of products, from electronics to
2 •  ,  ,  , &  
pharmaceuticals. Questions about how intellectual property is controlled,
licensed, used, and reused are all part of a growing public discourse that
now engages far more than an elite cadre of lawyers.
In this environment, it is not surprising to nd that there has been a
corresponding growth in the teaching and research of intellectual property
subjects by academics who specialize in this area. While twenty-ve years
ago there were almost no Canadian academics teaching or writing about
intellectual property law, today, most law faculties in Canada boast at least
one intellectual property specialist, and many have concentrations of schol-
ars who work in this eld. The growth of a Canadian intellectual property
academy has been important in developing critical analyses and insights
into the changing laws and policies around intellectual property both in
Canada and internationally.
Because intellectual property law now trenches so deeply on issues of
economics, culture, health, commerce, creativity, and intellectual freedom,
it is no surprise that there is also a burgeoning literature on intellectual
property issues that comes, not just from legal academics or lawyers, but
from those trained in other disciplines.1 Such authors observe and reect
upon the impact of intellectual property law and policy for society and cul-
ture more broadly. No longer an arcane and technical area of the law best
left to legal specialists, intellectual property law has evolved into a site of
contention over what it means to think, to create, and to participate in cul-
ture and in society.
Yet although academics from many disciplines have turned their atten-
tion to intellectual property issues, they have, with some notable excep-
tions, tended to do so within the connes of their own disciplinary silos. In
the spring of 2012, the Centre for Law, Technology, and Society at the Uni-
versity of Ottawa hosted a workshop that sought to bring together academ-
ics from dierent disciplines interested in intellectual property law in order
to stimulate discussion across disciplines, to encourage the development
of collaborative eorts, and to produce a body of research that explores in-
tellectual property law issues from explicitly interdisciplinary perspectives.
The collection of papers in this book is the product of this workshop.
1 Jerry A Jacobs & Scott Frickel, “Interdisciplinarity: A Critical Assessment” (2009) 35
Annual Review of Sociology 43 (note that Jacobs & Frickel suggest that social change
may be a factor driving the development of “interdisciplines” — areas of study that span
disciplinary categories. They suggest that “new knowledge elds are fundamentally
political outcomes, the result of struggles for resources, identities, and status” at 57).

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