The Opposite(s) of Property

The Opposite(s) of Property The Opposite(s) of Property

an interdisciplinary investigation
of property and its borders

January 17, 2009
Duke Law School


(click on a session to view the webcast or on a name for information on the speaker)


James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins

Ringing Up Baby: Gender, Property and Price Fixing in the Market for Reproductive Services

Kimberly Krawiec
Professor of Law, University of North Carolina Law School

Commentary: Arti Rai
Elvin R. Latty Professor of Law, Duke Law School

Slavery: Beyond the Pure Property Paradigm

Adrienne Davis
William M. Van Cleve Professor of Law, Washington University Law School

Commentary: Jedediah Purdy
Associate Professor of Law, Duke Law School

Property, Commons, and Cooperative Human Systems Design

Yochai Benkler
Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies, Harvard Law School

Commentary: Jerome Reichman
Bunyan S. Womble Professor of Law, Duke Law School

The Original Public Domain

Jedediah Purdy
Professor of Law, Duke Law School

Commentary: David Lange
Melvin G. Shimm Professor of Law, Duke Law School

Hohfeld in the Underworld

James Boyle
William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law, Duke Law School

Commentary: Jennifer Jenkins
Director, Center for the Study of the Public Domain, Duke Law School

Common Threads and Differences

(Plenary Panel)

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Webcasts of these sessions of "The Opposite(s) of Property: A Workshop" presented by the Duke University Center for the Study of the Public Domain are made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
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About the Workshop

Public lands, unownable ideas, markets for eggs and surrogates, slaves in court, the economics of sharing . . . . These were some of the issues discussed at this Duke Law School event. The workshop was prompted by the publication of James Boyle’s book, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind (Yale University Press 2008), but its topic was also a wider one.


There is nothing which so generally strikes the imagination and engages the affections of mankind, as the right of property; or that sole and despotic dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world.

Blackstone’s quotation is famous. But what of the opposite of property, or rather the opposites of property? What of property’s outside, its antonyms, limitations, negations, its absences? Over the last ten years theorists in very different areas have explored these realms. Some have studied the importance of the limitations on intellectual property, whether those consist of “the public domain” or of a “commons” created by a Creative Commons or free software license. They have studied the distributed creativity that occurs in those places where property is either absent or turned to the ends of sharing. Others have looked at different boundaries on property – at the physical “public domain” of public lands for example, and its role in economic development and environmental protection. Some scholars have focused on the places where we are reluctant to recognize markets or property rights, for example in the economic arrangements around human eggs or reproductive services. Still others have looked at historical moments in the battles over the edges of property rights, such as attempts by slaves to use the language of property and of contracts to gain their freedom and the tangles that antebellum courts wove into the law as a result.

The workshop does not claim some essential common thread links each of these inquiries together. Instead, it offered essayistic contributions from a distinguished and diverse group of panelists and commentators each of whom has, in their own way, explored the margins, the edges, and the opposites of property. Do those different investigations shed light on each other? View the workshop seesions to find out.