When All Intellectual Property was Theft

Monday, November 6, 2006
Time: 4:00 pm
Title:When All Intellectual Property was Theft:The Nineteenth-Century
Assault on Patenting and Copyright
Speaker: Adrian Johns, University of Chicago
Location: 370 Dwinelle Hall, UC Berkeley
Sponsored by:Office for History of Science and Technology (UC Berkeley)
And the History of Health Sciences Program (UCSF)
We are all familiar with the loud and bitter conflicts over intellectual
property that command attention in today’s realms of digital media and
biotechnology. Because these are proclaimed to be revolutionary fields, we
often assume that the conflicts themselves are unprecedented. This is
false. In fact, they inherit concepts, convictions, and arguments from a
nineteenth-century crisis of patenting and copyright that was at least as
profound as our own, and that took place at an equally pivotal moment in
the history of the sciences. I aim to restore this prior crisis to the
place that it warrants in our historical perceptions. Rival conceptions of
science, industry, and imperialism were at stake in deciding its outcome.
And when it came to an end, it left behind it the concept of intellectual
property that has continued to prevail until our own day.

Co-Sponsored by the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology,The Science,
Technology, and Society Center, and The Center for British Studies


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