Professor of Law


  • Office: 120 Tremont St.,
  • Suite: 210-D
  • Phone: 617-305-6270
  • Fax: 617-305-3081
  • Email:


  • BA, Stanford University
  • JD, PhD, University of Michigan

Bar Admittance

  • MA
  • U.S.D.C. MA
  • US Court of Appeals 1st & Federal Circuit.


  • Constitutional Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • Cultural Analysis of Law
  • Copyright Law
  • Trademark Law


Professor Silbey's scholarship draws from her interdisciplinary background in the humanities and law. One of her interests is in intellectual property law, particularly in the investigation of "IP communities:" activities, groups and organizations with a particular creative or innovative focus. She studies the common and conflicting narratives within those communities in relation to intellectual property law and legal institutions that purport to regulate them. She is especially interested in the connections between cultural narratives of creation, discovery, incentive and labor and their legal counterparts in IP communities, statutes and legal cases. The empirical dimension of this project (conducting and analyzing interviews with artists, scientists and intellectual property professionals) will be published by Stanford University Press in 2014.

Another of her interests is in the interrelationship of law and film in legal practice and popular culture. Her research and writing in this area investigates how film and video are used as legal tools and how they become objects of legal analysis. A long-time interest since she was a graduate student in literature and film, her work explores questions such as: how does automated surveillance film become testimony in a court of law? How do cultural perceptions about film and video affect their evaluation by jurors, advocates and judges? How might legal actors and lay citizens mobilize the audiovisual technology of our twenty-first century to further the promises of our justice system? A current project in this area concerns ultrasound technology and the politics of reproductive choice.

Professor Silbey teaches courses in constitutional law and intellectual property.

Professor Silbey received her B.A. from Stanford University and her J.D. and Ph.D. (Comparative Literature) from the University of Michigan. Before joining the faculty of Suffolk University Law School, Professor Silbey was a litigator at the law firm of Foley Hoag LLP in Boston. She also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Robert E. Keeton on the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts and to the Honorable Levin Campbell on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

Professional Activities

Presidential Special Committee, AALS Law and Film Series (2012-2014), Executive Board Member, AALS IP Section Executive (2014-2015); Chair, AALS Section on Law and Humanities (2011-12), Program Chair, AALS Section on Law and Humanities (2009-2010); Editorial Board (International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 2009-2012); Executive Committee, AALS Section on Law and Interpretation; Chair, AALS Section on Art Law, Executive Committee (2007-2008); Organizing Committee, Association of Law, Culture and Humanities (2007-2010); On-Site Coordinator of Annual Conference, Association of Law, Culture and Humanities (2009), Program Committee, Association of Law, Culture and Humanities (2008).




LAW AND JUSTICE ON THE SMALL SCREEN (2012) (Peter Robson and Jessica Silbey, eds.)

Book Chapters

Reputation and the Role of Trademarks in Businesses Infused with IP, in LAW AND SOCIETY PERSPECTIVES IN INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY (William T. Gallagher and Debra Halbert eds., 2015)

Progress Evaluated: A Qualitative Analysis of "Promoting Progress" through IP, in IP HANDBOOK (Sage, Halbert and David eds., 2014), pp. 515-538        

The Semiotics of Film in U.S. Supreme Court Jurisprudence, in LAW, CULTURE AND VISUAL STUDIES (Springer Press, Anne Wagner and Richard Sherwin eds., 2013)

Language and Culture in Intellectual Property Law: A Book Review (reviewing Jessica Reyman's "The Rhetoric of Intellectual Property: Copyright and the Regulation of Digital Culture", in THE IP LAW BOOK REVIEW (2010)

A Witness to Justice

Chapter: A History of Representations of Justice: Coincident Preoccupations of Law and Film, in REPRESENTATIONS OF JUSTICE (A. Masson and K. O'Connor eds., 2007)


Understanding Intellectual Property and The Value of Interdisciplinary Case Studies: A Book Review of Putting Copyright in Its Place: Rights Discourses, Creative Labour and the Everyday, by Laura Murray, Tina Piper, and Kirsty Robertson (Oxford University Press, 2014), 27 INTELLECTUAL PROP. J., 91-103 (2015) 

Picturing Moral Arguments in a Fraught Legal Arena: Fetuses, Phantoms and Ultrasounds, 16 GEO. J. of GENDER & L.  __ (2015)

Reading Intellectual Property Law Reform through the Lens of Constitutional Equality (reviewing Robert Spoo's Without Copyright, Aram Sinnreich's The Piracy Crusade, and Bill Herman's The Fight Over Digital Rights), 50 TULSA L.R. 101-122 (2015)

Persuasive Visions: Film and Memory, LAW CULTURE & HUMAN.10 24 (2014)

Patent Variation: Discerning Diversity Among Patent Functions, 45 LOY. U. CHI. L.J. 441 (2013) (Symposium Issue: Patents, Innovation and Freedom to Use Ideas)

Copyright Fair Use: A Four Way Discussion and Book Round Up, 52 :2 CINEMA J. 138-150 (2013) (with Peter Decherney, Rebecca Tushnet, Bill Herman)

Images In/Of Law, 57 N.Y.L. SCH. L. REV. 117 (2012) (Symposium Issue: Visualization of Law in the Digital Age) (Interview with Professor Silbey about visual evidence in the digital age and more on the Symposium can be viewed here.)

Harvesting Intellectual Property: 'Inspired Beginnings and 'Work Makes Work': Two Stages in the Creative Process of Artists and Innovators, 86 NOTRE DAME L. REV. 2091 (2011)

Comparative Tales of Origins and Access: The Future of Intellectual Property Law, 61 CASE W. RES. L. REV. 195 (2010)

Reasoning from Literature, 22 YALE J.L. & HUMAN. 339 (2010)

Evidence Verité and the Law of Film, 31 CARDOZO L. REV. 1257 (2010)

The Politics of Law and Film Study: An Introduction to the Symposium on Legal Outsiders in American Film, 42 SUFFOLK L. REV. 755 (2009)

The Mythical Beginnings of Intellectual Property, 15 GEO. MASON L. REV. 319 (2008) (selected for re-publication by the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology)

Cross-Examining Film, 8 U. MD. L.J. RACE, REL. GENDER & CLASS 17 (2008) (Symposium Issue) [View Film Clip] (reprinted in Volume 1, 26th Annual Civil Rights Practicing Law Institute Handbook pp. 971-1004).

Justices Taken in By Illusion of Film, Opinion Editorial, BALTIMORE SUN MAY 13, 2007 (2007)

Truth Tales and Trial Films, 40 LOY. L.A. L. REV. 551 (2007)

Criminal Performances: Film, Autobiography and Confession, 37 NEW MEX. L. REV. 189 (2007)

Orit Kamir's Framed: Women in Law and Film, 17 :4 BIMONTHLY REVIEW OF LAW BOOKS 11 (July/Aug. 2006) (book review)

Videotaped Confessions and the Genre of Documentary, 16 FORDHAM INTELL. PROP. MEDIA & ENT. L.J. 789 (2006) (reprinted in LAW IN MEDIA, Amicus Books, India and in THE NEW DOCUMENTARY, Ifcai University Press, India, forthcoming 2009).

Filmmaking in the Precinct House and the Genre of Documentary Film, 29 COLUM. J.L. & ARTS 107 (2005)

Judges as Film Critics: New Approaches to Filmic Evidence, 37 U. MICH. J.L. REFORM 493 (2004)

What We Do When We Do Law And Popular Culture, 27 LAW & SOC. INQUIRY 139 (2002)

Patterns of Courtroom Justice, 28 J.L. SOC'Y 97 (2001)

In The News

WBUR, Radio Boston, January 19, 2015 (discussing 3D printers, the movie Selma, and intellectual property law reform), The Eureka Myth: How Misunderstandings about Creativity Sustain a Flawed Copyright System,, January 23, 2015

WBUR, Radio Boston, July 30, 2014 (discussing Massachusetts’ new clinic access bill)

NPR and Boston Public Radio, June 26, 2014 (commenting on clinic buffer zones and McCullen v. Coakley)

Emily Rooney Television Show, WGBH, June 26, 2014 (discussing Supreme Court decision McCullen v. Coakley)

Boston Globe, June 26, 2014 (quoted in article “Mass. Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones Rules Illegal”)

Letter to editor, May 16, 2014, Boston Globe (on access to justice and legal education)

Op Ed, May, 19, 2012 “Vendor’s Penalty bad call by Mass.” (with Professor Stacey Dogan, on trademark counterfeiting prosecution and overbroad Massachusetts trademark law)

New York Times, March 2, 2009 (quoted in article “Supreme Court Enters the YouTube Era,” by Adam Liptak regarding videotaped evidence at Supreme Court)

Op Ed, May 13, 2007 “Justices Taken in by Illusion of Film,” (on Supreme Court decision Scott v. Harris)

Boston Globe, April 23, 2006 (quoted in article “Go ahead… I dare ya!” by Chris Shea about anti-abortion state laws that conflict with Supreme Court cases)