The Greenpeace of Cultural Environmentalism

61 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2011

See all articles by Jyh-An Lee

Jyh-An Lee

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - Faculty of Law

Date Written: January 5, 2011


Over the past twenty years, institutions and organizations such as Creative Commons (“CC”), the Electronic Frontier Foundation ("EFF"), the Free Software Foundation ("FSF"), and Public Knowledge ("PK") have established the essential foundations for intellectual-commons as a social movement. Professor James Boyle argues that these organizations parallel the functions of environmental groups like Greenpeace, the Environmental Defense Fund, and Environmentally Concerned Scientists. Significantly, these organizations are primarily nonprofit organizations (NPOs).

This Article focuses on the NPOs that occupy an increasingly critical and visible position in the cultural-environmentalism movement in recent years. These organizations have been involved in current intellectual property (IP) reform via litigation, political advocacy, public-interest grant-making, as well as various private ordering activities, such as producing free licensing schemes and repositories of commons resources. The unique features of these NPOs enable them to serve important social aims that neither the proprietary sector nor the government may fulfill very well. Nonetheless, IP scholars have tended to overlook the NPO as a topic worthy of theoretical or empirical investigation. Given the importance of NPOs in the intellectual-commons environment, it is surprising how little attention they have received in legal literature.

The aim of this Article is to fill that gap. Through a detailed description of these NPOs, I argue that such organizations have provided the social structures that are necessary to support cultural environmentalism. Moreover, this Article tests the robustness of two dominant NPO theories - contract failure theory and government and market failure theory - in the commons movement context. By applying these theories and touching on related ones in a new territory, this study not only broadens the scope of NPO scholarship but also provides a new lens to understand the commons environment and cultural environmentalism.

Suggested Citation

Lee, Jyh-An, The Greenpeace of Cultural Environmentalism (January 5, 2011). Widener Law Review, Vol. 16, No. 1, 2010, Available at SSRN:

Jyh-An Lee (Contact Author)

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - Faculty of Law ( email )

6/F, Lee Shau Kee Building
Shatin, New Territories
Hong Kong

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