Jessica Silbey

Jessica Silbey

Professor of Law

Yanakakis Faculty Research Scholar

BA, Stanford University
JD, University of Michigan Law School
PhD, University of Michigan


Biography

Jessica Silbey teaches and writes in the areas of intellectual property, constitutional law, and law and the humanities.

In addition to a law degree, she has a PhD in comparative literature and draws on her studies of literature and film to better account for law’s force, both its effectiveness and failing as socio-political regulation. In 2018, she was a Guggenheim Fellow and has recently completed a book supported by that fellowship called Against Progress: Intellectual Property and Fundamental Values in the Internet Age (Stanford University Press, 2022). In Against Progress, Professor Silbey considers intellectual property debates in law and culture as a bellwether of changing social justice needs in the 21st century. The book argues that intellectual property law is becoming a central framework through which to discuss essential socio-political issues, extending ancient debates over our most cherished constitutional values, refiguring the substance of “progress” in terms that demonstrate the urgency of art and science to social justice today.

Professor Silbey’s last book, The Eureka Myth: Creators, Innovators and Everyday Intellectual Property (Stanford University Press, 2015), altered the national conversation about creativity and invention. Based on a qualitative empirical analysis of interviews with authors, artists, inventors and lawyers, the book challenges the traditional notion of intellectual property as merely creating financial incentives necessary to spur innovation. Professor Silbey continues her qualitative empirical study of intellectual property in on-going research on practices of digital photography and design.

In addition to her research on intellectual property and constitutional law, Professor Silbey writes and speaks about the use of film as a legal tool (body cams, surveillance video, medical imaging) and the representations of law in popular culture (courtroom dramas, reality television). She is the co-editor of several books, including Law and Popular Culture: A Course Book (Vandeplas 2020) (with Michael Asimow), Trial Films on Trial (University of Alabama Press, 2019) (with Austin Sarat and Martha Umphrey) and Law and Justice on the Small Screen (Bloomsbury, 2012) (with Peter Robson). She is an affiliate fellow at Yale’s Information Society Project and was a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. She was previously chair of the Association of American Law School’s (AALS) national Section on Intellectual Property and served on the AALS Presidential Conference Film Committee from 2012-2020. She was co-chair of the New England Chapter for the Copyright Society of the United States from 2015 through 2018. She has been a distinguished lecturer and visiting fellow at the Willson Center for the Humanities and the Arts at the University of Georgia and was honored to give the 56th Robert D. Klein Lecture at Northeastern University in 2020. Before joining Boston University School of Law, Professor Silbey was a faculty member at Northeastern University School of Law where she was the faculty director of the Center for Law, Innovation, and Creativity, an affiliate professor in English, and Core Faculty at Northeastern’s NuLab for Maps, Texts, and Networks.

Professor Silbey was honored to clerk for Judge Robert E. Keeton on the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts and Judge Levin Campbell on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Before becoming a law professor, she practiced law in the disputes department of the Boston office of Foley Hoag LLP focusing on intellectual property, bankruptcy, and reproductive rights.

Publications

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  • Jessica Silbey, A Matter of Facts: The Evolution of Copyright’s Fact-Exclusion and Its Implications for Disinformation and Democracy Journal of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A. (2024)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Copyright Fiduciaries: Problems and Solutions JOTWELL (2023)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Foreword, in Copyright in the Street: An Oral History of Creative Processes in Street Art and Graffiti Subcultures (Enrico Bonadio,2023)
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  • Jessica Silbey & Mark P. McKenna, A Qualitative Method for Investigating Design, in Handbook on Empirical Studies in Intellectual Property Law (Estelle DerClaye,2023)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Questions of Intellectual Property and Fundamental Values in the Digital Age 27 Marquette Intellectual Property & Innovation Law Review (2023)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Centering Black Women in Patent History JOTWELL (2022) (book review)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Digital Photographers: Trust, Truth, and Copyright in the Digital Age, in The Subjects of Literary and Artistic Copyright (Enrico Bonadio and Cristiana Sappa,2022)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Four Privacy Stories and Two Hard Cases, a Comment on Skinner-Thompson's Privacy at the Margins 37 Constitutional Commentary (2022)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Against Progress: Intellectual Property and Fundamental Values in the Internet Age (2022)
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  • Jessica Silbey & Mark P. McKenna, Investigating Design 84 University of Pittsburgh Law Review (2022)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Four Privacy Stories and Two Hard Cases 37 Constitutional Commentary (2022)
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  • Jessica Silbey, New Copyright Stories: Clearing the Way for Fair Wages and Equitable Working Conditions in American Theater and other Creative Industries 83 Ohio State Law Journal Online (2022)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Trademark, Labor Law, and Antitrust, Oh my! JOTWELL (2021) (book review)
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  • Jessica Silbey & Jeanne Fromer, Retelling Copyright: The Contributions of the Restatement of Copyright Law 44 Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts (2021)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Intellectual Property and Ethnography: A Qualitative Research Approach, in Handbook of Intellectual Property Research: Lenses, Methods, and Perspectives (Irene Calboli and Maria Lillà Montagnani,2021)
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  • Jessica Silbey, We're All Pirates Now: Making Do in a Precarious IP Ecosystem 39 Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal (2021)
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  • Jessica Silbey & Michael Asimow, Law and Popular Culture: A Course Book (3rd edition) (2020)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Fixing Informational Asymmetry Through Trademark Search Jotwell (2020) (book review)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Against Progress: Interventions About Equality in Supreme Court Cases About Copyright Law 19 Chicago-Kent Journal of Intellectual Property (2020)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Right of Repair in the Digital Economy JOTWELL (2019) (book review)
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  • Jessica Silbey, How Xerox’s Intellectual Property Prevented Anyone From Copying Its Copiers Smithsonian Magazine (2019)
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  • Jessica Silbey & Eric Goldman, Copyright’s Memory Hole 2019 Brigham Young University Law Review (2019)
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  • Jessica Silbey & Woodrow Hartzog, The Upside of Deep Fakes 78 Maryland Law Review (2019)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Trial Films on Trial (2019)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Intellectual Property Harms: A Paradigm for the Twenty-First Century 99 Boston University Law Review (2019)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Justifying Copyright in the Age of Digital Reproduction: The Case of Photographers 9 UC Irvine Law Review (2019)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Eva Subotnik & Peter DiCola, Existential Copyright and Professional Photography 95 Notre Dame Law Review (2019)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Control over Contemporary Photography: A Tangle of Copyright, Right of Publicity, and the First Amendment 42 Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts (2019)
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  • Jessica Silbey & Zahr Said, Narrative Topoi in the Digital Age 68 Journal of Legal Education (2018)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Heuristic Interventions in the Study of Intellectual Property 101 Minnesota Law Review Headnotes (2017)
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  • Jessica Silbey, American Trial Films and the Popular Culture of Law, in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology (Henry Pontell,2017)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Review of What's Wrong with Copying? by Abraham Drassinower 7 IP Law Book Review (2017) (book review)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Review of Punishment in Popular Culture by Charles Ogletree Jr. & Austin Sarat, eds. 51 Law & Society Review (2017) (book review)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Fairer Uses 96 Boston University Law Review (2016)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Picturing Moral Arguments in a Fraught Legal Arena: Fetuses, Photographic Phantoms and Ultrasounds 16 Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law (2015)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Reading Intellectual Property Law Reform through the Lens of Constitutional Equality 50 Tulsa Law Review (2015)
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  • Jessica Silbey, The Past and Future of Copyright Politics JOTWELL (2014) (book review)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Promoting Progress: A Qualitative Analysis of Creative and Innovative Production, in The SAGE Handbook of Intellectual Property (Matthew David and Debora Halbert,2014)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Review of Putting Intellectual Property In Its Place: Rights Discourses, Creative Labor and the Everyday by Laura J. Murray, S. Tina Piper & Kirsty Robertson 27 Intellectual Property Journal (2014) (book review)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Aaron Perzanowski & Marketa Trimble, Afterword: Conferring About the Conference 52 Houston Law Review (2014)
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  • Jessica Silbey, The Eureka Myth: Creators, Innovators, and Everyday Intellectual Property (2014)
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  • Jessica Silbey & Meghan Hayes Slack, The Semiotics of Film in US Supreme Court Cases, in Law, Culture and Visual Studies (Anne Wagner and Richard K. Sherwin,2014)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Persuasive Visions: Film and Memory 10 Law, Culture and the Humanities (2014)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Patent Variation: Discerning Diversity Among Patent Functions 45 Loyola University of Chicago Law Journal (2013)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Peter Decherney, Rebecca Tushnet & Bill Herman, Copyright Fair Use: A Four Way Discussion and Book Round Up 52 Cinema Journal (2013)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Law and Justice on the Small Screen (2012)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Persuasive Visions: Film and Memory 10 Law, Culture, and the Humanities (2012)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Images in/of Law 57 New York Law School Law Review (2012)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Harvesting Intellectual Property: Inspired Beginnings and 'Work-Makes-Work,' Two Stages in the Creative Processes of Artists and Innovators 86 Notre Dame Law Review (2011)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Introduction to Symposium: Reasoning from Literature 22 Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities (2010)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Comparative Tales of Origins and Access: Intellectual Property and the Rhetoric of Social Change 61 Case Western Reserve Law Review (2010)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Evidence Verité and the Law of Film 31 Cardozo Law Review (2010)
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  • Jessica Silbey, The Rhetoric of Intellectual Property: Copyright Law and the Regulation of Digital Culture, by Jessica Reyman (Book Review) 1 The IP Law Book Review (2010) (book review)
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  • Jessica Silbey, A Witness to Justice, in 46 Studies in Law, Politics, and Society (Austin Sarat,2009)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Cross-Examining Film 8 University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, Religion, Gender and Class (2009)
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  • Jessica Silbey, The Politics of Law and Film Study: An Introduction to the Symposium on Legal Outsiders in American Film 42 Suffolk University Law Review (2009)
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  • Martin A. Schwartz, Jessica Silbey, Jack Ryan & Gail Donoghue, Analysis of Videotape Evidence in Police Misconduct Cases 25 Touro Law Review (2009)
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  • Jessica Silbey, The Mythical Beginnings of Intellectual Property 15 George Mason Law Review, (2008)
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  • Jessica Silbey, A History of Representations of Justice: Coincident Preoccupations of Law and Film, in Representations of Justice (Masson, O'Connor,2007)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Truth Tales and Trial Films 40 Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review (2007)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Criminal Performances: Film, Autobiography, and Confession 37 New Mexico Law Review (2007)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Filmmaking in the Precinct House and the Genre of Documentary Film 29 Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts (2006)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Videotaped Confessions and the Genre of Documentary 16 Fordham Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Law Journal (2006)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Judges as Film Critics: New Approaches to Filmic Evidence 37 University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform (2004)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Judges as Film Critics: New Approaches to Filmic Evidence 37 University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform (2004)
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  • Jessica Silbey, What Do We Do When We Do Law and Popular Culture 27 Law & Social Inquiry (2002) (book review)
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  • Jessica Silbey, Patterns of Courtroom Justice 28 Journal of Law and Society (2001)
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In the Media

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  • ABA Journal February 14, 2024

    Swift Justice: Students Learn about the Law through Taylor Swift Cases

    Jessica Silbey is quoted.
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  • Forbes February 1, 2024

    Look What You Made Me Do: Why Deepfake Taylor Swift Matters

    Jessica Silbey and Woodrow Hartzog’s research is referenced.
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  • Independent Political Report December 8, 2023

    New Amicus Brief in LNC Lawsuit in Michigan

    Stacey Dogan and Jessica Silbey submit an amicus brief.
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  • Trending News November 17, 2023

    Taylor Swift Goes to Law School (Kind Of)

    Jessica Silbey is featured.
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  • News Center Maine November 7, 2023

    Revolutionizing Automotive Repair: Maine Votes “Yes” to Accessible Vehicle Data

    Jessica Silbey is featured.
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  • BU Today November 1, 2023

    Elvis? Madonna? Michael Jackson? What Makes Taylor Swift the Pop Icon She Is?

    Jessica Silbey is featured.
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  • Reuters

    Taylor Swift Headed to This Law School, in Theory

    Jessica Silbey's book is referenced.
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  • University of Houston Law Center

    Sponsored Scholarship Grants for the Legal Academy

    Jessica Silbey receives 2023 Sponsored Scholarship Grant.
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  • IP Jotwell October 18, 2023

    Copyright Fiduciaries: Problems and Solutions

    Jessica Silbey writes an article review.
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  • Maine Monitor October 15, 2023

    Maine Monitor: Maine’s Auto ‘Right to Repair’ Ballot Initiative Part of National Movement

    Jessica Silbey is quoted.
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  • News Center Maine

    Maine’s ‘Right to Repair’ Ballot Initiative Part of National Movement

    Jessica Silbey is quoted.
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  • Barry Sookman September 11, 2023

    Generative AI and Copyrights: My Talk to the IPO

    Jessica Silbey is featured.
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  • The Nation September 1, 2023

    A Book Is a Book Is a Book—except When It’s an E-book

    Jessica Silbey is mentioned.
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  • Bloomberg Law July 14, 2023

    High Court Trademark Ruling Leaves Enforcement Avenues Murky

    Jessica Silbey is quoted.
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  • Politifact June 14, 2023

    Pence’s Point on Gender-Affirming Care for Minors Ignores Parental Consent Rules for Tattoos

    Jessica Silbey is quoted.
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Activities & Engagements

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