The History and Politics of Policing Intellectual Property

Piracy book

March 29, 2011 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Harris School of Public Policy Studies
1155 E. 60th St.
Room 224

Presented by Adrian Johns, Professor in the Department of History, Chair of the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, and author of Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates

Intellectual property has become a fundamental bone of contention in today's information culture. But the arguments that have raged around the concept have been at least partly misdirected. They have focused on doctrines, principles, laws and treaties - and have failed to see IP as a matter of practical policing. In fact, over the last generation a global industry has developed, devoted precisely to the policing of this contentious property. Many of our fiercest debates are sparked by the practices of this industry and revolve around the politics of those practices. I want to show why this is so. I shall seek to place the intellectual-property police in a long-term historical context, indicating how it grew to its present prominence and what we should do about it today.

Adrian Johns is a professor of history at the University of Chicago, where he also chairs the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science. He previously taught at the University of California, San Diego, and at the California Institute of Technology. He is the author of The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (1998), Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates (2009), and Death of a Pirate: British Radio and the Making of the Information Age (2010).