Copyright and copyleft. Privacy and piracy. Just a few of the topics on tap when Virginia Tech's  Choices and Challenges project explores "Intellectual Property in the Digital Age" on Feb. 27 in a free public forum.

Experts in history, law, sociology, communications, and political activism will discuss the future of rights such as patents, trademarks, and copyrights in an age of digital technology. The daylong event will be at the Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg and the Graduate Life Center at Donaldson Brown on the Virginia Tech campus.

“Our legal framework for intellectual property was developed to encourage creativity and innovation,” said Choices and Challenges Co-director Daniel Breslau, an associate professor in the Department of Science and Technology in Society. “But it did not contemplate a world in which creative work can be sent around the globe electronically and reproduced endlessly. The aim of the forum is to involve the public in a discussion of how we can balance the promotion of creativity, access to information, and the rights of creators.”

The forum will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Graduate Life Center with background sessions on a range of topics. The main panel, at 11 a.m. in the Lyric Theatre, will be moderated by Associate Professor James H. Collier of the Department of Science and Technology in Society and executive editor of the journal Social Epistemology.

Experts on the panel will be:

  • Karyn Temple Claggett, associate register of copyrights and director of policy and international affairs at the U.S. Copyright Office. As associate register, she advises Congress and executive branch agencies on domestic and international issues of copyright law and policy.
  • Paul Brigner, regional director of the North American Bureau at the Internet Society. He was previously senior vice president and chief technology policy officer for the Motion Picture Association of America and executive director of Internet and technology policy for Verizon.
  • Adrian Johns, Allan Grant Maclear Professor of History at the University of Chicago. The author of several books and papers on the histories of science, information, and intellectual property, he was a Guggenheim Fellow in 2012-13 for his work on the global industry to protect intellectual property.
  • Hector Postigo, associate professor of media studies and production at Temple University. The author of “The Digital Rights Movement: The Role of Technology in Subverting Digital Copyright” (2012) and co-founder of the blog Culture Digitally, he studies the Internet and technologically mediated activism.
  • Elizabeth Stark, entrepreneur in residence at Stanford University’s StartX nonprofit small-business incubator. She is a co-founder of the Open Video Alliance and started Stanford's Ideas for a Better Internet Program to engage students in projects to improve the Internet.

The background sessions at 9:30 a.m. and follow-up discussions at 2:30 p.m. in the Graduate Life Center will cover a range of topics, including global challenges to intellectual property rights, the copyleft movement, fair-use protections and open access, and privacy and the future of the Internet. These sessions will include opportunities for audience questions and comments.

Sponsors for Choices and Challenges include the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Office of the President, Outreach and International Affairs, Office of the Provost, and Pamplin College of Business.

Established in 1985, the Choices and Challenges Project has presented more than two dozen public forums on issues involving science and technology. More information about the project is available from Breslau, Co-director Saul Halfon, or Research Associate Monique Dufour.