Skip to content
Seal of the University of California, Davis UC Davis Law Review

Intellectual Property and Social Justice

March 10, 2006

Join us at the University of California, Davis, on Friday, March 10, to participate in an historic discussion about intellectual property's role in promoting social justice in the new century. A quarter century ago, the New Jersey Supreme Court declared in the historic case of State v. Shack that "property rights serve human values." Property rights today balance myriad values, from efficiency to personhood, human health, dignity, fairness and distributive justice. But is this also true of intellectual property today? If intellectual property has come of age, we must ask whom it serves.

We have assembled some of the brightest minds in the nation, from the academy to non-profit organizations, to begin to document and articulate the relationship between intellectual property and social justice. We aspire to begin to fill a gap in intellectual property theory by broadening the theoretical underpinnings of, and agenda for, intellectual property law in the Information Age.

The theory may be behind the practice. WIPO has issued a "Declaration" stating that intellectual property rights in this century must take into consideration health, human rights, and development. The New York Times labels intellectual property "the first social movement of the new century." Indigenous peoples claim intellectual property rights protect cultural identity and generate redistribution of economic and cultural resources.

This Symposium, to be published in the UC Davis Law Review in 2006, will begin to elaborate a social analysis of intellectual property. The Symposium will address issues such as formal versus substantive equality in cyberspace; the egalitarian benefits of new technologies and emergent forms of organizing creative work, such as open-source and Creative Commons products; the appropriation of traditional, Western intellectual property concepts by disempowered, non-Western peoples; intellectual property as a tool for development; and the reproduction of real world inequalities in cyberspace.

© Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.