Book Review: The Political Economy of Intellectual Property Rights, ed. by Christopher May

Christopher May, ed.  The Political Economy of Intellectual Property Rights.  Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2010 (1815 pages in 3 volumes); $975.00 hardcover edition.

The Political Economy of Intellectual Property Rights, edited by Christopher May, is a three volume set of previously published material on the subject of global intellectual property rights in relation to TRIPS and the WTO.  This set would be of greatest interest to attorneys practicing in the intellectual property field and would also be appropriate for law school libraries as a resource for students working on law journal or law review articles.

The collection’s editor, Christopher May, is regarding as a leading authority on the topic of global intellectual property rights.  In the last 15 years, he has published 10 books and over 40 journal articles on intellectual property rights and the information society.  Two of these articles are included in this collection.  Mr. May’s introduction outlines the reasons he had for compiling this collection, and as he asserts, “the essays reproduced in these volumes are not intended to present a single position on the ‘problem’ of intellectual property, but rather represent a set of resources from which each readers’ own critical political economy of IPRs can be constructed” (ix-x).

The set includes 64 articles in total, dating from 1989-2007.  Eight of the included articles are chapters from other books; the remainder were gleaned from a wide selection of journals, with the majority coming from various law reviews and journals, including one freely available on the web.  The volumes also state that “the articles in these volumes have been reproduced as originally published using facsimile reproduction, inclusive of footnotes and pagination to facilitate ease of reference.”  Mr. May has organized these articles into eleven broad topic areas which include Histories of Intellectual Property, Enclosure and the Information Commons, Intellectual property and Economics, The World Trade Organization and the TRIPS Agreement, and Intellectual Property: Critique or Abolition?

According to the publisher’s website, May’s collection “ranges across a number of disciplines and political perspectives to establish that the political economic analysis of intellectual property is both multifaceted and contested.”  This set is, however, simply a collection of previously published law journal articles and book chapters that have been organized into generally related categories.  While I can see the convenience of having these articles gathered together in one place, I find it difficult to recommend spending over $900 for a set of articles that are readily available elsewhere.  There is not even an index included, which at least would allow potential purchasers the ability to look up specific keywords or terms for research purposes.  The bottom line is that this is a fairly expensive multi-volume set of previously published articles that most law libraries already have access to or would be able to acquire much more inexpensively through interlibrary loan.

Reviewed by Stacy Fowler, Technical Services Librarian at the Sarita Kenedy East Law Library, St. Mary’s University School of Law.

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