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79-248 Ownership & Property in Historical Perspective:Land, Bodies, Ideas & Information
This course surveys the changing relationship between private property and the public domain from the 17th century to the present. We will look at economic, social, and political justifications concerning the ownership of land, bodies, ideas and information. The course will begin with an exploration of the roots of our present day property regimes: the land enclosure movement in early modern England (where peasants were forcibly removed from common land so that it could be converted into private estates) and the development of intellectual property law in English and American jurisprudence. We will then undertake an examination of how ideas about property and the public domain have evolved as people began to make property claims on new things, including: slaves, works of literature and art, radio bandwidth, software code, the environment, reproductions of books and music (especially over the internet), one's own body, cell lines, tissues, organs, and regions of the genome. We will conclude with a discussion of how Western ideas about the private and the public are being spread around the world through international trade agreements, and how these concepts often come into conflict with local views of ownership.
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