1. Apart from being anonymous, this poem is extremely hard to date. It probably originates in the enclosure controversies of the eighteenth century. However, the earliest reference to it that I have been able to discover is from 1821. Edward Birch was moved to compose some (fairly poor) verses in response when he reported “seeing the following jeu d’esprit in a Handbill posted up in Plaistow, as a ‘CAUTION’ to prevent persons from supporting the intended inclosure of Hainault or Waltham Forest.” He then quotes a version of the poem. Edward Birch, Tickler Magazine 3 (February 1821), 45. In 1860, “Exon,” a staff writer for the journal Notes and Queries, declares that “the animosity excited against the Inclosure Acts and their authors . . . was almost without precedent: though fifty years and more have passed, the subject is still a sore one in many parishes. . . . I remember some years ago, in hunting over an old library discovering a box full of printed squibs, satires and ballads of the time against the acts and those who were supposed to favor them,—the library having belonged to a gentleman who played an active part on the opposition side.” “Exon,” “Ballads Against Inclosures,” Notes and Queries 9, 2nd series (February 1860): 130–131. He reports finding the poem in that box, and quotes a verse from it. The context of the article makes it appear that the poem itself must date from the late eighteenth century. In other sources, the poem is sometimes dated at 1764, and said to be in response to Sir Charles Pratt’s fencing of common land. See, e.g., Dana A. Freiburger, “John Thompson, English Philomath—A Question of Land Surveying and Astronomy,” n. 15, available at http://www.nd.edu/~histast4/exhibits/papers/Freiburger/. This attribution is widespread and may well be true, but I have been able to discover no contemporary source material that sustains it. By the end of the nineteenth century, the poem was being quoted, sometimes with amusement and sometimes with agreement, on both sides of the Atlantic. See Ezra S. Carr, “Aids and Obstacles to Agriculture on the Pacific-Coast,” in The Patrons of Husbandry on the Pacific Coast (San Francisco: A. L. Bancroft and Co., 1875), 290–291; Edward P. Cheyney, An Introduction to the Industrial and Social History of England(New York: Macmillan, 1901), 219.
2. Although we refer to it as the enclosure movement, it was actually a series of enclosures that started in the fifteenth century and went on, with differing means, ends, and varieties of state involvement, until the nineteenth. See, e.g., J. A. Yelling,Common Field and Enclosure in England, 1450–1850 (Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1977).
4. Karl Polanyi, Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (Boston: Beacon Press, 1957), 35. Polanyi continues in the same vein. “The fabric of society was being disrupted. Desolate villages and the ruins of human dwellings testified to the fierceness with which the revolution raged, endangering the defenses of the country, wasting its towns, decimating its population, turning its overburdened soil into dust, harassing its people and turning them from decent husbandmen into a mob of beggars and thieves.” Ibid. See also E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class(London: V. Gollancz, 1963), 218.
6. For an excellent summary of the views of Hobbes, Locke, and Blackstone on these points, see Hannibal Travis, “Pirates of the Information Infrastructure: Blackstonian Copyright and the First Amendment,” Berkeley Technology Law Journal 15 (2000): 789–803.
7. More recent accounts which argue that enclosure led to productivity gains tend to be more qualified in their praise. Compare the more positive account given in Ernle, English Farming, with Michael Turner, “English Open Fields and Enclosures: Retardation or Productivity Improvements,” Journal of Economic History 46 (1986): 688: “Enclosure cannot be seen as the automatic open door to this cycle of agricultural improvement, but the foregoing estimates do suggest that perhaps it was a door which opened frequently, and with profit.”
8. Most notably work by Robert C. Allen: “The Efficiency and Distributional Consequences of Eighteenth Century Enclosures,”The Economic Journal 92 (1982): 937–953; Enclosure and The Yeoman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992). Allen argues that the enclosure movement produced major distributional consequences, but little observable efficiency gain. The pie was carved up differently, to the advantage of the landlords, but made no larger. In contrast, Turner sees enclosure as one possible, though not a necessary, route to productivity gains (“English Open Fields,” 688). Donald McCloskey’s work also argues for efficiency gains from enclosure, largely from the evidence provided by rent increases. Donald N. McCloskey, “The Enclosure of Open Fields: Preface to a Study of Its Impact on the Efficiency of English Agriculture in the Eighteenth Century,” Journal of Economic History 32 (1972): 15–35; “The Prudent Peasant: New Findings on Open Fields,” Journal of Economic History 51 (1991): 343–355. In Allen’s view, however, the increase in rents was largely a measure of the way that changes in legal rights altered the bargaining power of the parties and the cultural context of rent negotiations; enclosure allowed landlords to capture more of the existing surplus produced by the land, rather than dramatically expanding it. “[T]he enclosure movement itself might be regarded as the first state sponsored land reform. Like so many since, it was justified with efficiency arguments, while its main effect (according to the data analysed here) was to redistribute income to already rich landowners.” Allen, “Eighteenth Century Enclosures,” 950–951.
9. The possibility of producing “order without law” and thus sometimes governing the commons without tragedy has also fascinated scholars of contemporary land use. Robert C. Ellickson, Order without Law: How Neighbors Settle Disputes(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991); Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).
10. The analogy to the enclosure movement has been too succulent to resist. To my knowledge, Ben Kaplan, Pamela Samuelson, Yochai Benkler, David Lange, Christopher May, David Bollier, and Keith Aoki have all employed the trope, as I myself have on previous occasions. For a particularly thoughtful and careful development of the parallel between the two enclosure movements, see Travis, “Pirates of the Information Infrastructure.”
11. See, e.g., William A. Haseltine, “The Case for Gene Patents,”Technology Review(September 2000): 59, available at http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/ haseltine0900.asp; cf. Alexander K. Haas, “The Wellcome Trust’s Disclosures of Gene Sequence Data into the Public Domain & the Potential for Proprietary Rights in the Human Genome,” Berkeley Technology Law Journal 16 (2001): 145–164.
12. See, e.g., Haseltine, “The Case for Gene Patents”; Biotechnology Industry Association, “Genentech, Incyte Genomics Tell House Subcommittee Gene Patents Essential for Medical Progress,” available at http://www.bio.org/news/newsitem.asp?id?2000_ 0713 _01.
13. See, e.g., Howard Markel, “Patents Could Block the Way to a Cure,” New York Times (August 24, 2001), A19. For the general background to these arguments, see Rebecca S. Eisenberg, “Patenting the Human Genome,” Emory Law Journal 39 (1990): 740–744.
17. I might be suspected of anti-economist irony here. In truth, neither side’s arguments are fully satisfying. It is easy to agree with Richard Posner that the language of economics offers a “thin and unsatisfactory epistemology” through which to understand the world. Richard Posner, The Problems of Jurisprudence (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990): xiv (quoting Paul Bator, “The Judicial Universe of Judge Richard Posner,” University of Chicago Law Review 52 (1985): 1161). On the other hand, explaining what it means to “own one’s own body,” or specifying the noncommodifiable limits on the market, turns out to be a remarkably tricky business, as Margaret Jane Radin has shown with great elegance in Contested Commodities (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996).
18. Directive 96/9/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 1996 on the Legal Protection of Databases, 1996 Official Journal of the European Union (L 77) 20, available at http://europa.eu.int/ISPO/infosoc/legreg/docs/969ec.html.
19. The phrase “Washington consensus” originated in John Williamson, “What Washington Means by Policy Reform,” inLatin American Adjustment: How Much Has Happened? ed. John Williamson (Washington, D.C.: Institute for International Economics, 1990). Over time it has come to be used as shorthand for a neoliberal view of economic policy that puts its faith in deregulation, privatization, and the creation and defense of secure property rights as the cure for all ills. (See Joseph Stiglitz, “The World Bank at the Millennium,” Economic Journal 109 : 577–597.) It has thus become linked to the triumphalist neoliberal account of the end of history and the victory of unregulated markets: see Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1992). Neither of these two results are, to be fair, what its creator intended. See John Williamson, “What Should the Bank Think about the Washington Consensus?” Institute for International Economics (July 1999), available at http://www.iie.com/publications/papers/paper.cfm?ResearchID=351.
21. The differences are particularly strong in the arguments over “desert”—are these property rights deserved or are they simply violations of the public trust, privatizations of the commons? For example, some would say that we never had the same traditional claims over the genetic commons that the victims of the first enclosure movement had over theirs; this is more like newly discovered frontier land, or perhaps even privately drained marshland, than it is like well-known common land that all have traditionally used. In this case, the enclosers can claim (though their claims are disputed) that they discovered or perhaps simply made usable the territory they seek to own. The opponents of gene patenting, on the other hand, turn more frequently than the farmers of the eighteenth century to religious and ethical arguments about the sanctity of life and the incompatibility of property with living systems. These arguments, or the appeals to free speech that dominate debates over digital intellectual property, have no precise analogue in debates over hunting or pasturage, though again there are common themes. For example, we are already seeing nostalgic laments of the loss of the immemorial rights of Internet users. At the same time, the old language of property law is turned to this more evanescent subject matter; a favorite title of mine is I. Trotter Hardy, “The Ancient Doctrine of Trespass to Web Sites,” 1996, art. 7, Journal of Online Law art. 7, available at http://www.wm.edu/law/publications/jol/95_96/hardy.html.
23. Remember, I am talking here about increases in the level of rights: protecting new subject matter for longer periods of time, criminalizing certain technologies, making it illegal to cut through digital fences even if they have the effect of foreclosing previously lawful uses, and so on. Each of these has the effect of diminishing the public domain in the name of national economic policy.
24. James Boyle, Shamans, Software, and Spleens: Law and the Construction of the Information Societ (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996), 29; William M. Landes and Richard A. Posner, “Economic Analysis of Copyright Law,”Journal of Legal Studies 18 (1989): 325; Pamela Samuelson and Suzanne Scotchmer, “The Law & Economics of Reverse Engineering,” Yale Law Journal 111 (2002): 1575–1664; Jessica Litman, “The Public Domain,” Emory Law Journal 39 (1990): 1010–1011.
27. The most recent example of this phenomenon is multiple legal roadblocks in bringing GoldenRice to market. For a fascinating study of the various issues involved and the strategies for working around them, see R. David Kryder, Stanley P. Kowalski, and Anatole F. Krattiger, “The Intellectual and Technical Property Components of Pro-Vitamin A Rice (GoldenRiceTM): A Preliminary Freedom-to-Operate Review,”ISAAA Briefs No. 20 (2000), available at http://www.isaaa.org/Briefs/20/briefs.htm. In assessing the economic effects of patents, one has to balance the delays and increased costs caused by the web of property rights against the benefits to society of the incentives to innovation, the requirement of disclosure, and the eventual access to the patented subject matter. When the qualification levels for patents are set too low, the benefits are minuscule and the costs very high—the web of property rights is particularly tangled, complicating follow-on innovation, the monopoly goes to “buy” a very low level of inventiveness, and the disclosure is of little value.
31. The so-called “business method” patents, which cover such “inventions” as auctions or accounting methods, are an obvious example. See, e.g., State St. Bank & Trust Co. v. Signature Fin. Group, Inc., 149 F.3d 1368, 1373 (Fed. Cir. 1998).
33. See, e.g., Feist Publications v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 350 (1991): “Copyright treats facts and factual compilations in a wholly consistent manner. Facts, whether alone or as part of a compilation, are not original and therefore may not be copyrighted.” To hold otherwise “distorts basic copyright principles in that it creates a monopoly in public domain materials without the necessary justification of protecting and encouraging the creation of ‘writings’ by ‘authors.’ ” Ibid., at 354.
35. Those who prefer topographical metaphors might imagine a quilted pattern of public and private land, with legal rules specifying that certain areas, beaches say, can never be privately owned, and accompanying rules giving public rights of way through private land if there is a danger that access to the commons might otherwise be blocked.
41. Kelly v. Arriba Soft, 336 F.3d 811 (9th Cir. 2003). After initially holding that while thumbnails were fair use, inline links that displayed pictures were not fair use, the court reversed itself and found fair use in both instances.
42. After a District Court issued a temporary injunction telling Static Controls that it must cease manufacturing generic toner cartridges that operated in Lexmark printers—indicating it was likely to be found to be violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s “anti-circumvention” provisions—the Appeals Court held that such cartridges did not in fact violate the DMCA. Lexmark International, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., 387 F.3d 522 (6th Cir. 2004).
44. “When scientists from Princeton University and Rice University tried to publish their findings [on the vulnerabilities in a copy protection scheme] in April 2001, the recording industry claimed that the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes it illegal to discuss or provide technology that might be used to bypass industry controls limiting how consumers can use music they have purchased. ‘Studying digital access technologies and publishing the research for our colleagues are both fundamental to the progress of science and academic freedom,’ stated Princeton scientist Edward Felten. ‘The recording industry’s interpretation of the DMCA would make scientific progress on this important topic illegal.’ . . . “SDMI sponsored the ‘SDMI Public Challenge’ in September 2000, asking Netizens to try to break their favored watermark schemes, designed to control consumer access to digital music. When the scientists’ paper about their successful defeat of the watermarks, including one developed by a company called Verance, was accepted for publication, Matt Oppenheim, an officer of both RIAA and SDMI, sent the Princeton professor a letter threatening legal liability if the scientist published his results.” “EFF Media Release: Princeton Scientists Sue Over Squelched Research,” available at http://w2.eff.org/IP/DMCA/Felten_v_RIAA/20010606_eff_felten_pr.html. After a First Amendment challenge to the relevant provisions of the DMCA, the threats were withdrawn.