Sunday, February 6, 2011

Kapczynski & Krikorian: A2K in the Age of IP

Concurring Opinions is currently hosting an online symposium on Access to Knowledge in the Age of Intellectual Property, a collection of essays edited by Amy Kapczynski and Gaëlle Krikorian. The book is available for free download or purchase ($15.69 at Amazon).

Access to Knowledge (A2K) is a movement united by a common critique of strong IP laws; Kapczynski explored the interesting political economy of this social mobilization in a 2007 Yale Law Journal article. It has never been clear to me that the diverse actors included under the A2K umbrella are really united by a coherent intellectual theory (or consistently unified interests); but then again, "intellectual property" itself encompasses a diverse (and sometimes incoherent) array of concepts. Access to Knowledge in the Age of Intellectual Property brings together a diverse collection of international A2K activists and scholars. I have only read a few chapters and skimmed a few more, but it seems like a good reference for those interested in the young A2K field. I would particularly recommend Kapczynski's introduction and Yochai Benkler's chapter on the information commons (particularly pp. 226-35).

In the Concurring Opinions symposium, I thought Frank Pasquale drew some interesting parallels between A2K and other reform efforts (like health care), which "run up against the 'irresistible force' of capital flight and demands for increasing returns on investment." I also enjoyed Lea Shaver's use of Google's ngrams to track the historical use of IP terms; she showed, for example, that patents have historically been written about much more often than copyrights or trademarks, and that the concept of "intellectual property" as a coherent grouping has only taken off in the past few decades.

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