Law and Technology in a Neo-Liberal Age

13 International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences 520-527 (James D. Wright ed., Elsevier, 2d ed., 2015)

Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-12

12 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2015

Date Written: April 22, 2015


The conclusion of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) in 1994 established a minimum baseline for regulating access to technology and knowledge goods. This global regime of intellectual property rights has since been a contentious aspect of modern economic relations. It has been viewed by consumers around the world as a significant barrier to access to technology and associated knowledge goods, including stymieing opportunities for social and political engagement by citizens. Public disenchantment with intellectual property as a primary regulator of access to technology could be addressed by the explicit linkage of proprietary rights to a new welfare axis comprised of development aspirations, human rights norms, and liberty considerations. To the extent social norms that develop around new technologies facilitate positive returns recognized by these complementary legal regimes, intellectual property rights that are in tension with these regimes will likely continue to lose moral sway, making the future of the TRIPS Agreement far less stable and its minimum obligations more costly to enforce. Moreover, gaps in how formal law and social norms regulate technology are not easily captured by the rigid prescriptions of treaty provisions, and thus the TRIPS Agreement is far less capable of serving the important role of shaping contemporary approaches to access to technology. As technology continues to reach deep into the private lives of citizens, and to affect the capacity and trajectory of national development in less-advanced economies, the design and construction of formal laws around which technology is produced, disseminated, and used will have greater import if they purposefully accommodate other legal orders whose norms resonate powerfully in advancing stylized visions of societal progress and human well-being.

Keywords: TRIPS Agreement, development, human rights, privacy, technology, intellectual property

Suggested Citation

Okediji, Ruth, Law and Technology in a Neo-Liberal Age (April 22, 2015). 13 International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences 520-527 (James D. Wright ed., Elsevier, 2d ed., 2015), Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-12, Available at SSRN:

Ruth Okediji (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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