Professor Silbey is director of the law school’s Center for Law, Innovation and Creativity (CLIC)Her research and teaching focus on law’s entanglement with other disciplines such as the humanities and social sciences. 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 April 2018, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship — one of just 173 scholars, artists and scientists selected from a group of almost 3,000 applicants. The Guggenheim Fellowship supported work on a new book, Against Progress: Intellectual Property and Fundamental Values in the Internet Age (Stanford University Press, 2020). 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 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 an 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 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. She is the co-editor of several books, including 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). And, is the author of numerous law review articles and publications in other venues. In addition to her research on intellectual property, she 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 working on a third edition of Law and Popular Culture: A Course Book with Michael Asimow for 2020. She is an affiliate professor of English at Northeastern University, core faculty of Northeastern University’s NuLab for Maps, Texts, and Networks, 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 was co-chair of the New England Chapter for the Copyright Society of the United States from 2015 through 2018. In spring 2018, she served as a distinguished lecturer and visiting fellow at the Willson Center for the Humanities and the Arts at the University of Georgia. 

Professor Silbey 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. 

Fields of Expertise

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

Selected Works


Selected Chapters

  • “Intellectual Property and Ethnography: A Qualitative Research Approach,” in Oxford Handbook on Intellectual Property Research, eds. I. Caboli and L. Montagani (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2020).
  • “Photocopier,” in A History of Intellectual Property in 50 Objects, eds. D. Hunter and C. Op den Camp (Cambridge University Press, 2019).
  • "American Trial Films and the Popular Culture of Law," Oxford Research Encylopedia of Crime, Media and Popular Culture (2017).
  • “Promoting Progress: A Qualitative Analysis of Creative and Innovative Production,” in Sage Handbook of Intellectual Property, ed. D. Halbert et al. (Sage, 2014), 515-538.
  • The Semiotics of Film in U.S. Supreme Court Jurisprudence, in Law, Culture and Visual Studies, ed. A. Wagner (Springer Press, 2014), 179-202.
  • 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 andFilm, ed. A. Sarat (2008), 61-91.
  • A History of Representations of Justice: Coincident Preoccupations of Law and Film,Representations of Justice, ed. A. Masson, et al. (2008), 131-152.

Selected Articles

Selected Commentary