Conference on the Public Domain - The Second Enclosure Movement

James Boyle

November 9, 2001

The first enclosure movement, a state-backed conversion of common lands into privately held property, had a complex history. Though it disrupted the life of the village in a way that many observers found inhumane, it also allowed new and more efficient methods of production, greater investment in farming and larger agricultural yields. Some observers believe that we are now in the middle of a second enclosure movement, an enclosure of the commons of the mind by ever-expanding intellectual property rights. Will this enclosure give us the same productive gains as the first — an explosion of scientific and technical innovation? Or will it lead to legal deadlock, actually hurting creative development?

James Boyle is a Professor at Duke Law School and the author of Shamans, Software and Spleens; Law and the Construction of the Information Society (Harvard University Press).

Copyright 2001 Duke University