IP, technology, human rights

Hearsay Culture

Posted by Lea on June 27, 2012

Earlier I posted about a project I was working on, examining the impact of patents on innovation in the early lightbulb industry. The research has now ripened into a draft article, and I had the chance to share the work through an interview on David S. Levine‘s radio show.

If you’re not already a Hearsay Culture listener, the KZSU-FM (Stanford University) show is aired locally and podcast globally from the website. Each hour-long episode features a scholar working in the areas of technology and communications talking about their recent work.

The show routinely features much bigger fish than myself, and is definitely worth tuning in regularly.

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Back home again in Indiana

Posted by Lea on June 21, 2012

This summer I make the move from Hofstra Law School to my new academic home, the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

It’s a great school and I’m delighted to be joining the faculty. The move also brings us back to our home town of Indianapolis.

In honor of the move, I wanted to share with you a clip from Louis Armstrong’s rendition of “Back Home Again in Indiana.”

I was willing to pay $25 to obtain rights to share a thirty-second clip through this online licensing clearinghouse. But they wouldn’t even accept a bid lower than $4690.

I guess you’ll have to google “Armstrong Back Home Again in Indiana” and watch the infringing video on Youtube instead. The bootleg music video is much more entertaining than a 30-second audio clip anyway.

And won’t cost you $4690.

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Illuminating Innovation

Posted by Lea on July 28, 2011

This week I presented Illuminating Innovation at the Southeastern Association of Law Schools conference. This work in progress uses Thomas Edison’s lightbulb as a case study to “shed light” on how patents impact innovation.

This twenty-minute recording offers a glimpse of the project, through the lens of Mark Lemley’s patent racing theory:

Illuminating Innovation – SEALS

An abstract is also available at SSRN, http://ssrn.com/abstract=1658643, to be followed by a public draft in due course.

This is my first year attending the SEALS conference, and I’m completely sold on coming back next year. I’ve seen a number of great panels, but what really stands out in my mind is the feel of the conference… informal, accessible, and welcoming.

They also have a truly outstanding system not just for helping brand new scholars navigate the conference, but for really catering to our needs. They reserve speaking spots for the newbies, host a special lunch, and assign you a mentor… I got very lucky in being matched with Dennis Cargill.

I also appreciated that there has been a substantial set of programming around teaching. Last summer I attended the AALS Workshop for New Law Teachers in Washington D.C., which was fantastic. But I feel like I’m getting a second wave of good new ideas here, which is great.

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New light from an old source

Posted by Lea on July 20, 2010

I’m working now on a new project, which takes the historic litigation around the light bulb as an entry point to shed new light on the impact of patents upon innovation and access to new technologies.

Image of four light bulbs, in Pop Art style

Thanks to Zetson for the CC-licensed image, via Flickr

More than a century after its introduction, the light bulb remains the defining icon of invention.

Justifiably so, in my opinion, because this widget almost single-handedly drove the demand for electrification.

The light bulb was the “killer app” for electric power, which in turn brought about a new era of technological innovation.

Contrary to popular wisdom, however, Edison’s team was merely one of dozens that co-invented electric light bulb.

Scientifically speaking, his team’s discoveries were neither the first, nor the most important.

What Edison did better than all the other inventors took place not in the laboratory, but in the law office.

His lawyers pursued, obtained, asserted, and litigated key patents on light bulb technology in order to run competing bulb manufacturers out of business or buy them up.

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Posted in intellectual property, law and economics, law and technology | 2 Comments »

A2K and Human Rights

Posted by Lea on February 10, 2010

A2K4 logoThis weekend, February 11-13, 2010, the Yale Information Society Project will host its fourth major conference on access to knowledge, A2K4: Access to Knowledge and Human Rights.

I’ve had the privilege to be involved with all four of Yale’s A2K conferences, first as an ISP student fellow, and now as the director of its access to knowledge research program.

This year’s conference, however, is particularly close to my heart. For the first time, we’re approaching access to knowledge from the perspective of a particular theme: its intersection with human rights, the focus of two of my recent articles.

For the full agenda of the conference, as well as links to blog posts, archived video, and additional resources for each panel, please visit http://yaleisp.org/2010/02/a2k4main.

Below the jump, a summary of the opening remarks I will make on Friday morning…

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Headed to Hofstra!

Posted by Lea on January 2, 2010

Cue the Frank Sinatra: I’m headed to New York! I will join Hofstra Law School as an Assistant Professor in the fall of 2010.

I feel privileged to join such a wonderful community of colleagues, and am looking forward to teaching a package of intellectual property courses and continuing my research on access to knowledge.

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Access to Science

Posted by Lea on July 6, 2009

I’m currently working on an article on the right to science and culture, which seeks to shine light on an almost-forgotten provision of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. To shed light on what framers of the 1948 document were thinking, I’m reading up on the history of access to technology in the 1930s and 40s. It’s fascinating stuff.

One of the stories I’m intrigued by is the democratization of electricity during the New Deal. All of the scientific discoveries necessary to make home lighting work were in place by the 1880s. Yet almost half a century later, very few American households had it.

Diego Rivera, "Man at the Crossroads" (1934)

Diego Rivera, "Man at the Crossroads Looking with Hope and High Vision to the Choosing of a New and Better Future" (1934)

It was just too expensive. And the story of why it was expensive has everything to do with monopolies. Edison’s patents were aggressively litigated, so there was no competition in the lightbulb market. And since there was generally only one (private) utility company per city, there was no incentive to bring down costs.

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IP Works in Progress

Posted by Lea on June 25, 2009

I’m just back from the UK, attending a meeting of the Task Force on Intellectual Property Rights and Development.

The group, convened by Joseph Stiglitz, met to workshop chapters for a book that will bring together law and economics perspectives on intellectual property in international perspective.

If you work in this field, you’ll want to check out the working papers now posted online right away. I’ll be adding at least two of these as foundational readings for my students: an essential review of the economics literature on IP and innovation by Adam Jaffe and Albert Hu, and a great discussion of IP and development by Leonardo Burlamqui and Mario Cimoli.

Other highlights: proposals for pharmaceutical innovation prizes by Jamie Love and Tim Hubbard and exceptions and limitations for scientific research by Jerry Reichman and Ruth Okediji.

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Open Video Conference

Posted by Lea on June 20, 2009

Xeni Jardin -- BoingBoing TV by Roy Blumenthal, part of the Open Video Conference series, Creative Commons licensed

"Xeni Jardin -- BoingBoing TV" from Roy Blumenthal's Open Video Conference series, Creative Commons licensed

The Open Video Conference, co-organized by the Yale ISP, has been an exciting two days.

Registration topped 800, and I have it from a reliable source that 4000 people watched remotely. My own contribution to the conference was a presentation as part of a panel entitled “Human Rights and Indigenous Video: Dilemmas, Challenges and Opportunities.

I drew on examples from the recent protests in Iran to demonstrate how Internet video can be a powerful tool for promoting human rights, and why open video is particularly important to realizing this potential.

Video footage of our workshop is now available here. My presentation runs from 2:15 to 8:50. My slides are also available at the ISP’s blog. Below, a partial transcript.

This talk focused mostly on how open video can help people defend their human rights. But I’ve also written about how open video more directly supports the right to take part in cultural life in this short thought piece.

Open Video and Human Rights, by Lea Shaver

Presentation to the Open Video Conference, New York City, 19 June 2009

The big news story this week are the mass protests in Iran, where a dissatisfied public demands accountability for what appears to be massive election fraud.

Digital technologies have played a crucial role in the popular mobilization, as user-generated media circumvents the official censorship.

Here, the BBC’s website features extensive, detailed videos recorded by ordinary Iranian citizens from their cell phones.

It used to be that big media institutions made the news, and then the bloggers commented on it. Now those roles have been reversed.

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Posted in human rights, intellectual property, law and technology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »


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