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From Goods to a Good Life

Intellectual Property and Global Justice

Madhavi Sunder, J.D.


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Most scholarship on intellectual property considers this law from the standpoint of law and economics. Under this conventional wisdom, intellectual property is simply a tool for promoting innovative products, from iPods to R2D2. In this highly original book Madhavi Sunder calls for a richer understanding of intellectual property law’s effects on social and cultural life. Intellectual property does more than incentivize the production of more goods. This law fundamentally affects the ability of citizens to live a good life. Intellectual property law governs the abilities of human beings to make and share culture, and to profit from this enterprise in a global Knowledge economy. This book turns to social and cultural theory to more fully explore the deep connections between cultural production and human freedom.

Praise For From Goods to a Good Life: Intellectual Property and Global Justice

"Sunder's book is a bold challenge to scholars—and citizens—to push intellectual property policy beyond debates about innovation and efficiency into arguments about justice and well being.  Highly recommended."—James Boyle, author of The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind
— James Boyle

“Madhavi Sunder's passionate and fascinating book should be required reading for everyone concerned about the future of cultural property in
our increasingly globalized world.  With her deft use of examples, her rich knowledge of many world cultures, and her broad vision of how law
can enhance human freedom, Sunder argues that one traditional focus of intellectual property law, economic efficiency, is too narrow. Efficiency is one important goal, but we should also consider how law affects people's capacity to participate in cultural production, to criticize tradition, and to pursue values of autonomy and mutual recognition.  Equally valuable for experts and the general public, this book will reshape the entire debate about culture as property.”—Martha Nussbaum, Law School, Philosophy Department, and Divinity School, The University of Chicago
— Martha Nussbaum

“In this engaging book, Madhavi Sunder shows us why the ability to participate in culture is so important to human freedom, and why we must reform intellectual property to help everyone on the planet live a good life. This is a powerful argument for fair access to culture as a crucial component of global justice.”—Jack M. Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment, Yale Law School
— Jack Balkin

 "An imaginative reworking of the purpose and function of intellectual property law designed to go beyond efficiency and incentives to the plural values associated with freedom, equality, democracy, dignity, participatory culture, group formation, and simple joy. A pleasure to read with evocative examples of the ways the law can enable more of us to participate in collectively making meaning of our lives."—Joseph William Singer, Bussey Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

— Joseph William Singer

Yale University Press, 9780300146714, 272pp.

Publication Date: June 26, 2012

About the Author

Madhavi Sunder is professor of law at the University of California-Davis School of Law. She lives in Davis, CA.