It was a dark and stormy night

Ronald Dworkin famously compared judicial interpretation of legislation to the writing of a chain novel. I recently noticed an attempt by a few blogosphere types, led by Orin Kerr, to apply the same model to legal scholarship. The combined article is being blogged; its current text reads:

Intellectual property is neither intellectual nor property. Or at least that’s what some people think; in reality, a moment’s reflection will reveal that this is completely wrong. More correctly, a moment’s reflection will reveal that the courts consider this completely wrong. But they, too, are quite wrong. It was a dark and stormy night.

(And you thought that the discussion highlighted in Dave’s research-agenda post was unorthodox . . . ).

It’s a fun little goofy idea. And, of course, there are areas in which open-source and collaboration can work really well. An easy example is the analysis-of-multiple-states’-laws-about-X piece, where one professor can write on one state’s laws while another professor covers another state.

But a sentence-by-sentence open-sourcing of an article seems problematic. It just seems too easy for one or more of the participants to try to insert funny or incongruous sentences. And just one out-of-place sentence could destroy the continuity of an argument. Help! I’m being held prisoner in a fortune-cookie factory.

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2 Responses

  1. Frank says:

    Well, that didn’t stop Gertrude Stein from winning a place in the hearts and minds of generations of English professors!

    “Pigeons on the grass, alas, alas….”

  2. Deven Desai says:

    The whole thing might have worked better as a game of exquisite corpse. The game entails collaborators creating a work but each collaborator can only see what the immediately previous author contributed. The name of the game is claimed to come from one of the first Surrealist pieces created using the game “Le cadavre / exquis / boira / le vin / nouveau” Roughly: “The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.”

    The method would attack the central role of authorship in IP and draw out questions regarding derivative works. Hmm perhaps a business method patent is in order for exquisite corpse creation.