Document Type



This Article argues that the open-source and anti-expansionist rhetoric of current intellectual-property debates is a revolution of surface rhetoric but not of deep structure. What this Article terms "the Access Movements" are, by now, well-known communities devoted to providing more access to intellectual-property-protected goods, communities such as the Open Source Initiative and Access to Knowledge. This Article engages Movement actors in their critique of the balance struck by recent law (statutes and cases) and asks whether new laws that further restrict access to intellectual property "promote the progress of science and the useful arts." Relying on cases, statutes and recent policy debates, this Article contrasts the language of traditional intellectual-property law (origins and exclusivity) with the new language of the Access Movements (anti-origins and access). The Article compares the language of the Access Movements to that of sociopolitical movements of the past, and it draws lessons for successful and unsuccessful uses of rhetoric to enact social change. The Article concludes by showing how the language of the Access Movements retains certain core elements of the intellectual-property regime to which it is reacting and investigates whether this is an effective strategy (whether or not a conscious one) to stimulate change.

Date of Authorship for this Version



intellectual property, trademark, copyright, patent, narrative, law and literature, law and culture, rhetoric, social change, social movements, open source, property

Original Citation

Jessica M. Sibley, Comparative Tales of Origins and Access: Intellectual Property and the Rhetoric of Social Change, 61 CASE WESTERN RESERVE L. REV. 195, (2010).