The International Society for the History and Theory of Intellectual Property (ISHTIP) promotes and supports scholarly investigation of the national histories of patent, copyright, and “related” rights; the diverse “roads not taken” in the evolution of these legal structures; contemporary countertrends; and the laws and norms that have been devised in non European cultures around the world to manage intellectual production and exchange.
ISHTIP was launched at a conference on copyright history held March 20, 2008 at Stationers’ Hall in London. Development of the Society is being carried out by legal and literary scholars, cultural historians, and historians of science from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and diverse countries of the EU. It has an international advisory board and administrative headquarters that circulate internationally with the executive directors, whose universities are expected to help subsidize the Society during their tenure.

To accomplish its aims the Society

  • maintains a website to support the posting and discussion of work in progress, a searchable digital library of documents in the histories of IP, bibliographies, reviews of new publications of interest, course syllabi and other resources; and
  • sponsors an annual member-initiated workshop devoted to specific “problems” in IP.

In future the Society anticipates

  • sponsoring an annual week-long “summer school” for students of the history and theory of IP; and
  • establishing a peer-reviewed open-access digital journal.

By thus working to promote, coordinate, and disseminate critical inquiry into IP, the Society aims to re-frame – to broaden and deepen – current IP debate. Although contemporary mechanisms for regulating the production and use of information are geared around globalized legal IP norms, historical, ethnographic and related research reveals a wide and diverse range of precursors and alternatives to such proprietary norms. Research over the last decades indicates the huge potential for further investigation of these other experiences (as well as the enormous gaps that exist in our understanding of the historical construction and operation of the proprietary norms that now dominate the information field). Scholarly work that seeks to disclose, articulate and evaluate the experiences of alternative practices can provide important conceptual tools for those working on the critical problems facing information regulation today. While recent years have seen a rapid growth in the number of sophisticated researchers interested in these matters, they tend to be dispersed across academic departments and schools, government, NGOs, and the private sector. Some mechanism to foster communication among them is greatly needed. The Society aims to serve this function.

Interested scholars are invited to join ISTHIP and to help shape its development.

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International Society for the History and Theory of Intellectual Property (ISHTIP)