11/26/2007 05:27 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011


She's making me blush. I don't usually get admiring emails from law profs.

Hi Jan -- I just wanted to introduce myself, having followed your blog with great interest. My name is Sonia Katyal, and I am a law professor who specializes in the area of art, law and technology at Fordham Law School in NYC. Being a fan of your work, I just wanted to send you an abstract and article I finished on intellectual property, appropriation art, copyright, and the notion of the relationship between semiotic democracy and disobedience; it seemed like something that was relevant to your work. I'm thinking of turning part of it into a book, and so would be thrilled for any thoughts you might be able to share -- you can also download the paper for free on SSRN. Feel free to pass it on to interested folks via blog or otherwise, and I'd be grateful for any thoughts you might be able to pass along.

I told her I read the abstract. Twice. I also said I'd have to study it, let alone the paper it refers to, before I had any thoughts she might find worthwhile. Since I'm no academic, the terminology went right by me. Off the top of my head, though, I said the whole issue of postmodern appropriation and what it entails made me gravely ill. I called my illness "conflicted feelings." And just to show I was still breathing, I added, "Whether it's semiotic disobedience or outright theft seems to me to depend on whose ox is gored." When I was finally able to download the paper itself -- not easy to do, it turned out -- I got a short way in and came across this passage:

...the spirit of semiotic disobedience reflects some of the same classic goals and interests of traditional civil disobedience. The individuals I am speaking of do not expressly seek to reclaim the protection of the law; rather, their very objective is to demonstrate the expressive value of transgressing its limits. If our First Amendment jurisprudence has taught us anything, it has taught us the importance of recognizing the value of symbolic dissent, even when unpopular, as a key mediating tool in integrating the marketplaces of prohibited and protected expression.

Which clarifies what she's getting at. I think. More thoughts, anybody?