Document Type

Book Chapter

Book Authors/Editors

Anjali Vats


Stanford University Press

Publication Date



INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW, the body of legal doctrine and practice that governs the ownership of information, is animated by a dichotomy of creatorship and infringement. In the most often repeated narratives of creatorship/infringement in the United States, the former produces a social and economic good while the latter works against the production of that social and economic good. Creators, those individuals whose work is deemed protectable under copyright, patent, trademark, trade secret, and unfair competition law, create valuable products that contribute to economic growth and public knowledge. Infringers, those individuals who use the work of creators without their permission, steal those valuable products and act as drains on economic growth and public knowledge. These narratives, while comforting, are frequently oversimplified in public cultural conversations, in ways that center and elevate Westernness and whiteness and obscure and replicate histories of race and (neo)colonialism.

The Color of Creatorship is a book about the historical and continuing relationships between race and (neo)coloniality in intellectual property law. In it, I join a respected and growing group of scholars in contending that intellectual property law is a set of rhetorics about citizenship. However, unlike those who have previously written about the relationships between intellectual property and citizenship, I focus on the latter as a discourse through which race and coloniality continue to structure doctrinal practices in copyright, patent, and trademark law. Citizenship in the United States was and continues to be a raced concept. More specifically, it is a concept constructed by and through constantly evolving public cultural conceptions of Americanness, white masculinity, property, racial capitalism, and labor.