Professor Jessica Silbey is a leading scholar and nationally recognized expert on intellectual property and the use of film to communicate about law.

Silbey has altered the national conversation about creativity and invention with her recent book, The Eureka Myth: Creators, Innovators and Everyday Intellectual Property (Stanford University Press). Based on a set of 50 interviews with authors, artists, inventors and lawyers, Silbey’s work challenges the traditional notion of intellectual property as merely creating financial incentives necessary to spur innovation. Drawing on her interdisciplinary background and qualitative empirical training, Silbey's research sheds new light onto the roles intellectual property law play to sustain and frustrate the creative and innovative communities in the work they seek to accomplish. She is currently working on a new book investigating the intersection of intellectual property, creative and innovative work and fundamental democratic values in our digital age.

Silbey has been invited to speak about her research at the nation’s leading law schools, including Harvard, NYU and Yale, as well as at universities in Canada, England, Australia, France, Germany and Israel. Silbey earned her undergraduate degree with honors from Stanford University and her JD cum laude from the University of Michigan, where she also earned a PhD in comparative literature. She served as law clerk to Judge Robert E. Keeton of the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts and Judge Levin H. Campbell of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. She also spent three years in private law practice, focusing on intellectual property and reproductive rights.

Silbey is co-editor of the book Law and Justice on the Small Screen (with Peter Robson) and author of numerous law review articles and publications in other venues. In addition to her research on intellectual property, 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 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 has served on the AALS Presidential Conference Film Committee since 2012. She currently serves as co-chair of the New England Chapter for the Copyright Society of the United States.

Fields of Expertise

  • Constitutional Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • Copyright Law
  • Trademark Law
  • Cultural Analysis of Law

Selected Works


Selected Chapters

  • “Xerography and the Photocopy Machine,” in A History of Intellectual Property in 50 Objects, eds. Hunter and Den Camp, Cambridge University Press (Forthcoming). 
  • “Reputation and the Role of Trademarks in Businesses Infused with IP,” in Law and Society: Perspectives in Intellectual Property, ed. W. Callahger et al. (2015).
  • Progress Evaluated: A Qualitative Analysis of Promoting Progress through IP,” inIP Handbook, ed. D. Halbert et al. (Sage, 2014), 515.
  • The Semiotics of Film in U.S. Supreme Court Jurisprudence, in Law, Culture and Visual Studies, ed. A. Wagner (Springer Press, 2013).
  • Language and Culture in Intellectual Property Law: A Book Review (reviewing J. Reyman’s The Rhetoric of Intellectual Property: Copyright and the Regulation of Digital Culture), in The IP Law Book Review (2010).
  • A Witness to Justice,” inStudies in Law, Politics and Society: A Special Symposium Issue on Law andFilm, ed. A. Sarat (2009), 61.
  • A History of Representations of Justice: Coincident Preoccupations of Law and Film,Representations of Justice, ed. A. Masson, et al. (2007).

Selected Articles

Selected Commentary