Clown Eggs, Creative Norms, and the Social Value of Property Registers
72 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2018 Last revised: 27 Mar 2018
Date Written: March 8, 2018
Since 1946, many clowns have recorded their makeup by having it painted on eggs that are kept in a central registry in Wookey Hole, England. This tradition, which continues today, has been referred to alternately as a form of informal copyright registration and a means of protecting clowns’ property in their personae. This Article explores the clown egg register and its surrounding practices from the perspective of law and social norms. In so doing, it makes several contributions. First, it contributes another chapter to the growing literature on the norms-based governance of intellectual property, showing how clowns—like comedians, roller derby skaters, tattoo artists, and other subcultures—have developed an elaborate informal scheme in lieu of state-created copyright or trademark law to regulate their creative production. Second, this Article explores a rarer phenomenon in the norm-based IP context: formalized registration related to norm-based ownership rules. It shows that the Register exists not only to support those rules, but also serves a host of non-property functions, including expressing members’ professionalism, conferring a sense of prestige, and creating a historical record. Finally, this Article shows how its analysis of the Register offers lessons for the study of norms and law more generally. It points the way toward pluralist theories of norms-based regulation, and it highlights the underappreciated non-property functions of other ownership registers in the context of tangible and intellectual property alike.
Keywords: norms, property, informal ownership, registration, copyright, trademark, creativity without law, IP without IP
JEL Classification: K11
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation