Owning the Intangible: Possession, Theft, and (Mis)Appropriation of Ideas

Miscellaneous Assignment 6: Select A Topic

Summary: In this exercise, you will select a topic that you explore in Tutorial for the remainder of the semester.

Purpose: To begin your topic-based work.

Due: 8:00 a.m., Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Assignment: Identify two or three subjects that you expect will reveal interesting connections between intellectual property law and information technology. You may focus on a particular kind of IP law (e.g., copyright, fair use, patents, trademarks) or on IP law in general. Similarly, you can focus on a particular kind of technology (e.g., Web links) or upon information technology in general. You should feel free to phrase your subject as a question, as a statement, or even as a sequence of ideas.

Some Selected Starting Strategies:

You can (and perhaps even should) start your exploration for this assignment by talking to people. Who should you talk to? Mr. Rebelsky is one good resource, but many faculty on campus have interests in these kinds of issues. For example, Richard Fyffe, Librarian of the College, is particularly interested in intellectual property. Professor Graham in Economics studies patent, and Professor Caulkins in Anthroplogy has an interest in patent. Your colleagues in Tutorial are also good resources.

When I taught my first Tutorial on intellectual property, my students came up with a list of topics for future research. You may find it useful to browse that list, which may be found at

You might find it useful to search newspaper archives (ask a librarian for assistance) to see if there are recent cases that you find surprising or worth investigating in more depth.

A number of books cover these kinds of topics in depth. Feel free to ask Mr. Rebelsky for help finding one. The articles for our class may also serve as good starting points.

You might consider one of the following Web sites:



Wednesday, 3 September 2003 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]

Thursday, 4 September 2003 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]

Thursday, 18 August 2005 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]

Thursday, 16 August 2007 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]

Snday, 19 August 2007 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]

Tuesday, 20 April 2010 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]

Tuesday, 10 May 2010 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]


Disclaimer: I usually create these pages on the fly, which means that I rarely proofread them and they may contain bad grammar and incorrect details. It also means that I tend to update them regularly (see the history for more details). Feel free to contact me with any suggestions for changes.

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Samuel A. Rebelsky, rebelsky@grinnell.edu