Jessica Silbey4.5.18 — Professor Jessica Silbey, a leading scholar and nationally recognized expert on intellectual property and the use of film to communicate about law, has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awarded 173 Guggenheim Fellowships to a diverse group of scholars, artists and scientists; Silbey is the only law professor nationwide selected for this high honor this year. Appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, the successful candidates were chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the foundation’s 94th competition. This is the third Guggenheim Fellowship awarded to a member of the faculty of Northeastern University School of Law — Northeastern University Distinguished Professors Michael Meltsner and Karl Klare received this high honor earlier in their careers.

“I’m humbled and thrilled by the award,” said Silbey, whose research and teaching focus on law’s entanglement with other disciplines, such as the humanities and social sciences. “I will use the fellowship support to work on a book about how intellectual property debates in the internet age focus more on fundamental values like privacy and equality rather than economic assets and private property. I believe this is an important conversation for our digital age, which with all its amazing innovations has not ameliorated —and may have exacerbated — some of our basic societal problems.”

In addition to a law degree, Silbey holds 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. She teaches and writes in the area of intellectual property, constitutional law and evidence. Her most recent book, The Eureka Myth: Creators, Innovators and Everyday Intellectual Property (Stanford University Press 2015), has altered the national conversation about creativity and invention. Based on interviews with authors, artists, inventors and lawyers, it challenges the traditional economic explanation for intellectual property law through a qualitative empirical investigation of diverse mechanisms and motives for producing creative and innovative work. She also serves as co-director of the School of Law’s Center for Law, Innovation and Creativity (CLIC), which combines the study of innovation and creativity with the school’s social justice mission by attracting diverse scholars, lawyers, students, creators, innovators, start-up ventures and established companies to study the regulation of intellectual property and technology with the aim of promoting progress.

Silbey has been awarded numerous grants for her innovative approach to the cultural analysis of law that combines qualitative empirical data analysis, textual and discursive interpretation and critique, and doctrinal legal study. Recently, she has been a distinguished lecturer at the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts at the University of Georgia, a faculty associate at the Harvard Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society, and is currently an affiliate fellow at the Yale Information Society Project. Silbey has been invited to share her research across the globe, at universities, in private companies and in government. She regularly runs workshops for judges and lawyers to discuss the collision of film technology with legal adjudication, helping legal decision-makers hone their critical capacities to assess both static and moving images that compete for truth in the digital era.

“The renowned Guggenheim Fellowship is well-deserved recognition for Professor Jessica Silbey, who is among the most creative and wide-ranging intellectual property scholars of her generation,” said Dean Jeremy Paul. “Her work is characterized by a bold willingness to look back at first principles. She asks what we hope our IP regime can accomplish and how it can do so in a contemporary culture dominated by electronic communication and social media. Above all, she wants to know what drives creative people and how we can best encourage them. We will all learn from her ambitious work.”

United States Senator Simon Guggenheim and his wife established the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 1925 as a memorial to a son who died in 1922. The foundation offers fellowships to further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions and irrespective of race, color or creed. The roster of fellows includes numerous Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer and other prize winners.

About Northeastern University School of Law

The nation’s leader in experiential legal education since 1968, Northeastern University School of Law offers the longest-running, most extensive experience-based legal education program in the country and is a national leader in legal education reform. Founded with cooperative legal education as the cornerstone of its program, Northeastern guarantees its students an unparalleled full year of practical legal work. All students participate in four, full-time legal placements, and can choose from the more than 900 employers worldwide participating in the school’s signature Cooperative Legal Education Program. The future of legal education since 1968, Northeastern University School of Law blends theory and practice, providing students with a unique set of skills and experience to successfully practice law.