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Authorship and Autonomy as Rites of Exclusion: The Intellectual Propertization of Free Speech in Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston

Madhavi Sunder
Stanford Law Review
Vol. 49, No. 1 (Nov., 1996), pp. 143-172
Published by: Stanford Law Review
DOI: 10.2307/1229374
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1229374
Page Count: 30
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Authorship and Autonomy as Rites of Exclusion: The Intellectual Propertization of Free Speech in Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston
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Abstract

In the summer of 1995, the Supreme Court upheld the right of a South Boston veterans organization to exclude openly gay and lesbian Irish-Americans from marching in the city's annual St. Patrick's Day parade. In this note, Madhavi Sunder offers a cultural reading of the events in South Boston and the Court's subsequent interference in the dispute. Analogizing the ensuing rights to absolute use, exclusivity, and transfer the Court granted to the parade's organizers an intellectual property right in the parade, Ms. Sunder observes how today's "culture wars"-disputes between groups about identity, representation, and the right to create social and cultural meaning-are increasingly governed by a property-like conception of the First Amendment. Rather than let parties hash out cultural issues of representation, a process essential for cultures to adapt to the modern world, the First Amendment seeks to protect cultural ideas with an exaggerated view of "speaker autonomy" which, Ms. Sunder points out, largely resembles the romantic notion of the "author" in intellectual property law. Under this property view, the First Amendment insulates ideas from dissent and change, granting absolute power to create and maintain meaning to some groups at the exclusion of others. The result is cultural stasis and maintenance of the status quo. Ms. Sunder argues that property approaches to "free speech" must be met with skepticism. What is needed instead, she urges, is a cultural approach to the First Amendment, the contours of which she examines in this note.

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