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Making and Unmaking Intellectual Property

Creative Production in Legal and Cultural Perspective

Rules regulating access to knowledge are no longer the exclusive province of lawyers and policymakers and instead command the attention of anthropologists, economists, literary theorists, political scientists, artists, historians, and cultural critics. This burgeoning interdisciplinary interest in “intellectual property” has also expanded beyond the conventional categories of patent, copyright, and trademark to encompass a diverse array of topics ranging from traditional knowledge to international trade. Though recognition of the central role played by “knowledge economies” has increased, there is a special urgency associated with present-day inquiries into where rights to information come from, how they are justified, and the ways in which they are deployed.  


Making and Unmaking Intellectual Property, edited by Mario Biagioli, Peter Jaszi, and Martha Woodmansee, presents a range of diverse—and even conflicting—contemporary perspectives on intellectual property rights and the contested sources of authority associated with them. Examining fundamental concepts and challenging conventional narratives—including those centered around authorship, invention, and the public domain—this book provides a rich introduction to an important intersection of law, culture, and material production.

480 pages | 39 halftones, 3 line drawings, 7 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2011

Culture Studies

History: History of Ideas

Law and Legal Studies: General Legal Studies


“The essays . . . [shed] light on particular, sometimes quixotic, twists and turns in modernity’s efforts to nourish and reward the fruits of human invention. Making and Unmaking Intellectual Property is worth having on the shelf . . . because it brings between covers essays by many prominent historians, anthropologists, and literary scholars working on IP.”


"Offers compelling insights that challenge central ideas and primary narratives about intellectual property (IP); it also presents new perspectives and methodologies for some well-known areas of IP that dominate scholarly and popular literature and consistently confronts simplified dichotomous IP positions, such as the individual versus the collective, private versus public domains, tangible versus intangible properties, and legality versus illegality, revealing more complex dynamics at work. . . . This book presents exceptional research, perceptive conclusions, and new knowledge that could help influence the future production of culture and formation of IP law."


Making and Unmaking Intellectual Property gathers a wonderful collection of essays on the theme of intellectual property: its origins, its practices and materialities, its preoccupations, its assumptions and ways of thinking, its limitations and effects, and its alternatives. Filled with fascinating research and clear insights, this book will be of great importance not only to intellectual property scholars but to those in many of the disciplines that engage this subject, including literature, film studies, business law, and the history of science. The body of innovative work presented here will become a key reference point for scholars over the next decade.”

Lionel Bently, Cambridge University

“Here’s a simple prayer:  Let no new law regarding ‘intellectual property’ be passed until all legislators have absorbed the treasures contained in this wonderful collection of essays.”

Lewis Hyde, Kenyon College

“I have little doubt that this collection—with its wide-ranging, multidisciplinary approach—will join the ranks of intellectual property’s most defining works. A lucid survey of the field, Making and Unmaking Intellectual Property will serve as a point of entry for readers of various disciplines interested in going beyond the popular but often unsophisticated and uninformed debates around general intellectual property. The essays presented here illuminate in deep ways the genealogy and nature of the questions posed by IP, while engaging in diverse methodologies. Insightful, smart, and great fun, this book will be extremely useful for intellectual property’s rich history and current predicaments.”

Matthew Jones, Columbia University

Table of Contents

I. High and Low: IP Practices and Materialities
1. Patent Specification and Political Representation: How Patents Became Rights / Mario Biagioli
2. Authoring an Invention: Patent Production in the Nineteenth-Century United States / Kara W. Swanson
3. The “Person Skilled in the Art” Is Really Quite Conventional: U.S. Patent Drawings and the Persona of the Inventor, 1870–2005 / William Rankin

II. Before and after the Commons and Traditional Knowledge
4. Cultural Agencies: The Legal Construction of Community Subjects and Their Properties / Rosemary J. Coombe
5. Social Invention / Marilyn Strathern
6. From “Folklore” to “Knowledge” in Global Governance: On the Metamorphoses of the Unauthored / Marc Perlman
7. Inventing Copyleft / Christopher Kelty
8. Designing Cooperative Systems for Knowledge Production: An Initial Synthesis from Experimental Economics / Yochai Benkler

III. IP Crimes and Other Fictions
9. Beyond Representation: The Figure of the Pirate / Lawrence Liang
10. Publishers, Privateers, Pirates: Eighteenth-Century German Book Piracy Revisited / Martha Woodmansee
11. The Property Police / Adrian Johns
12. Characterizing Copyright in the Classroom: The Cultural Work of Antipiracy Campaigns / Tarleton Gillespie
13. An Economic View of Legal Restrictions on Musical Borrowing and Appropriation / Peter DiCola

IV. Old Things into New IP Objects
14. New Blood, New Fruits: Protections for Breeders and Originators, 1789–1930 / Daniel J. Kevles
15. Kinds, Clones, and Manufactures / Alain Pottage and Brad Sherman
16. No Patent, No Generic: Pharmaceutical Access and the Politics of the Copy / Cori Hayden
17. Inventing Race as a Genetic Commodity in Biotechnology Patents / Jonathan Kahn
18. The Strange Odyssey of Software Interfaces as Intellectual Property / Pamela Samuelson

V. Doing and Undoing Collaborative IP
19. Invention, Origin, and Dedication: Republishing Women’s Prints in Early Modern Italy / Evelyn Lincoln
20. Technological Platforms and the Layers of Patent Data / Tim Lenoir and Eric Giannella
21. Intellectual Property Norms in Stand-Up Comedy / Dotan Oliar and Christopher Sprigman
22. Patenting Life: How the Oncomouse Patent Changed the Lives of Mice and Men / Fiona Murray
23. Is There Such a Thing as Postmodern Copyright? / Peter Jaszi


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