Jessica M. SilbeyProfessor of Law
Stanford University, AB, 1992
University of Michigan, JD, 1998
University of Michigan, PhD, 1999
Mail: 416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: (617) 373-6246
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.
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, Germany and British Columbia. 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 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 a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. In January 2016, Professor Jessica Silbey was elected chair of the Association of American Law School’s (AALS) national Section on Intellectual Property and appointed to serve on the AALS Presidential Conference Film Committee. 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
- The Eureka Myth: Creators, Innovators and Everyday Intellectual Property (Stanford University Press, 2015).
- Law and Justice on the Small Screen (Hart, 2012) (co-editor).
- “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,” in IP 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,” in Studies in Law, Politics and Society: A Special Symposium Issue on Law and Film, 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).
- “Parrots, Foxes and Copy Rights: A Book review of What’s Wrong With Copying by Abraham Drassinower,” The IP Law Book Review, March, Volume 7 (2017).
- "American Trial Films and the Popular Culture of Law," Oxford Research Encylopedia (2017).
- “Fairer Uses,” 96 Boston University Law Review 857 (2016).
- Book review: “Understanding Intellectual Property and The Value of Interdisciplinary Case Studies: A Book Review of Putting Copyright in Its Place: Rights Discourses, Creative Labour and the Everyday, by Laura Murray, Tina Piper, and Kirsty Robertson,” 27 Intellectural Property Journal 91 (2015).
- “Picturing Moral Arguments in a Fraught Legal Arena: Fetuses, Phantoms and Ultrasounds,” 16 Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law 593 (2015).
- Book reviews: “Reading Intellectual Property Law Reform through the Lens of Constitutional Equality,” 50 Tulsa Law Review 101 (2015).
- “Persuasive Visions: Film and Memory,” Law Culture & Human 24 (2014).
- “Patent Variation: Discerning Diversity Among Patent Functions,” 45 Loyola University Chicago Law Journal 441 (2013).
- “Copyright Fair Use: A Four Way Discussion and Book Round Up”, 52(2) Cinema Journal 138 (2013) (co-author).
- “Images In/Of Law,” 57 New York Law School Law Review 117 (2012).
- “Harvesting Intellectual Property: 'Inspired Beginnings and ‘Work Makes Work’: Two Stages in the Creative Process of Artists and Innovators,” 86 Notre Dame Law Review 2091 (2011).
- “Comparative Tales of Origins and Access: The Future of Intellectual Property Law,” 61 Case Western Reserve Law Review 195 (2010).
- “Reasoning from Literature,” 22 Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities 339 (2010).
- “Evidence Verité and the Law of Film,” 31 Cardozo Law Review 1257 (2010).
- “The Politics of Law and Film Study: An Introduction to the Symposium on Legal Outsiders in American Film,” 42 Suffolk Law Review 755 (2009).
- “The Mythical Beginnings of Intellectual Property,” 15 George Mason Law Review 319 (2008).
- “Cross-Examining Film,” 8 University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, Religion, Gender 17 (2008).
- “Justices Taken in By Illusion of Film,” Baltimore Sun (May 13, 2007).
- “Truth Tales and Trial Films,” 40 Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review 551 (2007).
- “Criminal Performances: Film, Autobiography and Confession,” 37 New Mexico Law Review 189 (2007).
- “Videotaped Confessions and the Genre of Documentary,” 16 Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal 789 (2006).
- “Filmmaking in the Precinct House and the Genre of Documentary Film,” 29 Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts 107 (2005).
- “Judges as Film Critics: New Approaches to Filmic Evidence,” 37 University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform 493 (2004).
- “What We Do When We Do Law And Popular Culture,” 27 Law & Social Inquiry 139 (2002).
- “Patterns of Courtroom Justice,” 28 Journal of Law in Society 97 (2001).
- "Law Professors Examine the Constitutionality of Trump's Travel, Refugee Ban," News@Northeastern (January 31, 2017)
- Article Review: “Speaking from the Grave: Should Copyright Listen?,” Intellectual Property JOTWELL (September 29, 2016).
- “Looking for truth in film,” The Culpepper Star Exponent (July 24, 2016).
- “3Qs: What can a crime drama teach us about justice?,” News@Northeastern (July 20, 2016).
- “The Internet, Newsworthiness, and Invasion of Privacy,” News@Northeastern (March 9, 2016).
- “Suffolk Law Professor Says Intellectual Property Law Founded On ‘Eureka Myth,’” Radio Boston, WBUR (January 26, 2015).
- “The Eureka Myth: How misunderstandings about creativity sustain a flawed copyright system,” Slate (January 23, 2015).
- “New Temporary Buffer Zone Law Already Garnering Support And Criticism,” Radio Boston, WBUR (July 30, 2014).
- “BPR: Abortion Buffer Zones,” WGBH News (June 26, 2014).
- “Why Free Speech Trumped The Right To Avoid Harrassment,” The Emily Rooney Show, WGBH (June 26, 2014).
- “Mass. abortion clinic buffer zones ruled illegal,” The Boston Globe (June 26, 2014).
- “Tough market for lawyers? Tougher for those who can’t afford legal services,” The Boston Globe (May 16, 2014).
- “Vendor’s penalty bad call by Mass.,” Boston Herald (May 19, 2012).
- “Supreme Court Enters the YouTube Era,” The New York Times (March 2, 2009).
- “Justices taken in by illusion of film,” The Baltimore Sun (May 13, 2007).