CFP: Intellectual Property and Religious Thought


 “Intellectual Property and Religious Thought”

April 5, 2013

The University of St. Thomas will hold a conference titled “Intellectual Property and Religious Thought,” on April 5, 2013, co-sponsored by the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy and The University of St. Thomas Law Journal.  The conference will be held at the University of St. Thomas School of Law building in downtown Minneapolis.

The conference will bring together legal scholars, religious ethicists, religion scholars, and theologians for an interdisciplinary discussion of how religious themes, practices, and communities may inform and shape intellectual property law and policy.  The time is ripe for such a conversation.  The long, rich tradition of religious thought concerning property rights and obligations has only begun to be applied to the problems concerning intellectual property (IP) that are so central to the Information Age.  The foundations for analyzing these issues are deeply contested culturally, as evidenced by the warring slogans “Copying is theft” and “Intellectual property is theft.”  The Catholic Church and other religious bodies have issued brief but non-systematic statements on certain issues, such as biotechnology patents and access to patented medicines or seeds.  Underlying cases such as Bowman v. Monsanto, now before the U.S. Supreme Court, are deep debates about social justice and the ownership of artificially created but naturally replicating things (in that case, patents on seeds)—both matters to which major religions have historically spoken.  The conference and papers from it published in the University of St. Thomas Law Journal will be catalysts for this interdisciplinary conversation.

Keynote/featured speakers confirmed for the conference include (further invitations pending):

  • Robert Kwall, Raymond P. Niro Professor of Intellectual Property Law, DePaul University College of Law
  • Paul Griffiths, Warren Professor of Catholic Theology, Duke University Divinity School
  • Kevin Outterson, Associate Professor of Health Law, Bioethics, and Human Rights, Boston University School of Law
  • Audrey Chapman, Joseph M. Healy, Jr. Chair in Medical Humanities and Bioethics, University of Connecticut School of Medicine

Two broad themes provide the framework for conference papers: the idea of creativity as gift, and the idea of stewardship of property as fundamental to ownership.  These are meant to be highly flexible and allow for a wide range of topics, including but not limited to:

 Creativity as a gift: its implication for particular areas in copyright, patent, or other IP laws

  • Limits on patentability, of living things or natural processes, in the light of religious frameworks
  • Particular moral obligations of IP rights-holders, under stewardship or other religious themes
  • IP and human development in religious perspectives, under frameworks such as “the preferential option for the poor” or others
  • Analyses of particular creative/innovation industries or practices under religious norms and frameworks
  • The role of religious norms or communities in (a) encouraging compliance with IP rights or (b) challenging IP rights
  • Religious communities’ treatment of their own IP-eligible material

Depending upon the number of accepted papers, they may be presented in plenary or concurrent sessions.  Accepted papers will be considered for publication in the University of St. Thomas Law Journal.

Abstracts of proposed papers should be one page and should include the author’s name, affiliation, mailing address, and e-mail address.  The deadline for submission of proposals is December 3, 2012.  Notification of acceptance will be made by December 13, 2012.  Abstracts should be sent by e-mail to tcberg[at] or by first-class mail to

Professor Thomas Berg
c/o Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy
Re: Intellectual Property and Religious Thought Conference
UniversityofSt. Thomas
MSL 400,1000 La Salle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN  55403-2015

This call for papers is on the web at




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