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Rosemary J. Coombe

Archived biography: Prior to being awarded one of the country's first Canada Research Chairs she was Full Professor of Law at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. She holds a J.S.D. from Stanford University with a Minor in Anthropology and publishes widely in anthropology and political and legal theory. Her work addresses the cultural, political, and social implications of intellectual property laws (a full list of publications and lectures may be found in her Curriculum Vitae available on her website which is still under construction). Her book, The Cultural Life of Intellectual Properties, is a legal ethnography of the ways in which intellectual property law shapes cultural politics in consumer societies.

Recently, she has been working on two projects. With Andrew Herman she is engaged in a study of the ethics of property and propriety involved in the management of trademarks on the World Wide Web and the ways in which digital environments enable consumers to interrupt and to contest the corporate assumption of goodwill. These issues were covered in a recent address at MIT--webcast available here. The Chilling Effects project at the Berkman Center will provide an expanded database for this inquiry. The study will be expanded in the next year to address further issues of corporate responsibility in the exercise of intellectual property rights in the new economy.

A larger project concerns the protection of biological diversity, its relation to cultural diversity and the international movement to protect traditional knowledge in the international human rights framework. How and why have cultural claims been revitalized in the information economy and to what extent can appeals for the protection of cultural traditions serve progressive ends?

In recent remarks, she suggests that political movements to protect the public domain need to become more cross-cultural and more dialogic in nature and that authorship remains an aspirational status that will continue to attract the political energies of the world's marginalized in a globalizing economy.

Rosemary J. Coombe has an office at Boston University and is a Visiting Fellow in Comparative Media Studies at MIT as well as a Fellow at the Berkman Center.

Last updated

January 1, 2008