Jessica Silbey teaches and writes in the areas of intellectual property, constitutional law, and law and the humanities at Boston University School of Law.
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, forthcoming 2021). 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.