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117 Yale L.J. 804 (2007-2008)
The Access to Knowledge Mobilization and the New Politics of Intellectual Property

handle is hein.journals/ylr117 and id is 813 raw text is: AMY KAPCZYNSKI

The Access to Knowledge Mobilization and the
New Politics of Intellectual Property
A B ST R ACT. Intellectual property law was once an arcane subject. Today it is at the center of
some of the most highly charged political contests of our time. In recent years, college students,
subsistence farmers, AIDS activists, genomic scientists, and free-software programmers have
mobilized to challenge the contours of intellectual property (IP) law. Very recently, some from
these groups have begun to develop a shared critique under the umbrella of access to
knowledge (A2K). Existing accounts of the political economy of the field of IP have suggested
that such a mobilization was unlikely. This Article takes the emergence of the A2K mobilization
as an opportunity to develop a richer and less deterministic account of the contemporary politics
of IP. It draws upon frame mobilization literature, which illuminates the role that acts of
interpretation play in instigating, promoting, and legitimating collective action. The frame-
analytic perspective teaches that before a group can act it must develop an account of its interests
and theorize how to advance these interests. These acts of interpretation are both socially
mediated and contingent. Ideas can be a resource for those engaged in mobilization, but one that
is not fully in their control. Frames thus can lay the scaffolding for a countermovement even as
they pave the way for a movement's success. Law is a key location for framing conflicts because it
provides groups with symbolic resources for framing, and because groups struggle within the
field of law to gain control over law's normative and instrumental benefits. Law thus exerts a
gravitational pull on framing processes. Engagement with law can influence a group's
architecture, discourse, and strategies, and can also create areas of overlapping agreement and-
as importantly--a language of common disagreement between opposing groups. The Article
closes by suggesting some implications of this point, which should be of interest to those who
design legal institutions and who engage in social mobilization. Most intriguing, perhaps, is the
role it suggests that law may play in the creation of global publics and polities.
A U T H O R. This Article has benefited greatly from the suggestions of more readers than I can
thank here. I owe a special debt of gratitude to my colleagues at U.C. Berkeley School of Law and
Yale Law School, and particularly to Professors Catherine Albiston, Jack Balkin, James Boyle,
Yochai Benkler, Lauren Edelman, Terry Fisher, Oona Hathaway, David Lieberman, Peter
Menell, Robert Merges, Robert Post, Carol Rose, Pamela Samuelson, Reva Siegel, and Molly S.
Van Houweling. I note, finally, that I have engaged in advocacy work around access-to-
medicines issues in connection with some of the groups discussed herein. All views expressed
here are, of course, my own.


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