The first mention of the term "intellectual property" was in 1967 with the formation of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), although certainly the concept of intellectual property was around since the 17th century. The concept of intellectual property is (abstractly) an outgrowth of the EnclosureMovement? in Britain. However, the advent of the printing press and the PrintCulture? that came with it was what created the idea of propriety of ideas. Both PatentLaw? and CopyrightLaw stem directly from the press. To quote Eisenstein:
Studying intellectual property is very mindbending and mindnumbing. The only right answer is one that is sympathetic to the 300 years of experience we have, but that seems to be unwelcome on the Internet. That being said, it's foolish to be overly sympathetic to the current regime, as they are already too powerful and no longer require sympathy, but a BalancingForce--but not an overthrowing force. -- SunirShah
"Only right answer"? At least in US law, Copyright started as a way to balance the interest of content creators with the public interest in the dissemination of ideas. It has been distorted in recent decades to favor corporate content publishers over the public domain. But there is increasing public interest and political activism on the side of the public domain.
Siva Vaidhyanathan's Copyrights and Copywrongs is an excellent intellectual history and overview of the issue. Siva is looking to define an academic field of study in the area. From a recent blog post: http://www.nyu.edu/classes/siva/2004_03_15_blogarchive.html#107938853716331487
Nice! I have to say though that we're all PostModern librarians here at the Faculty of Information Studies. Well, I am more so than most. "Critical information studies," as you call it, is definitely the push for the future. -- SunirShah
"Only right answer"? In the sense that it's pointless to try to change the system without understanding the past, and understanding a social history requires sympathy of those involved, and whence comes charity, and charity is to be valued above all things in the art of productive argumentation. For example, AssumeGoodFaith. -- SunirShah, a BarnRaising zealot.
Ah, I misread what you said to mean "one right answer." -- may try refactoring to clarify. -AdinaLevin
Not sure about Eisenstein, but I think the intro mixes patents and copyrights way too carelessly. In An Economic Review of the Patent System by Fritz Machlup (1958) as cited in Abbot, Cottier and Curry The Internation Intellectual Property System, Commentary and Materials, Part One, p. 225, the early history is introduced as follows:
Nowhere is patent law and linked to the printing press in that passage. Similarly, to link copyright law with propriety of ideas is to equally misleading. LawrenceLessig clearly traces copyright law back to the power of booksellers.  Yes, the printing press features in the text, but that doesn't seem like the important part today.
I'd either remove the pointers to history -- unless you want to expand on this printing press issue, but then more info is needed -- or replace them with a more detailed account of both patent law and copyright. But those could go on the respective pages, so I don't think you need to do it here. I like WIPO as the intro, please keep that.
Given developing nations' plus large markets like China and India, many fear that IntellectualProperty is a moot subject. The Internet connects these players to our markets whether or not they abide by our social rules (CommunitySolution, LegalSolution). They only need to abide by the Internet architecture (TechnologySolution) without any accountability (VulnerabilityToCommunity; qua. the international community). Since IntellectualProperty is only a convention, and one that goes against human nature's instinct, it might just be moot faced with this force of nature.
That might bring us back to an OralCulture age of TradeSecrets, guilds, secret recipes and methods, that was pre-academic, pre-printing press, and less capable of supporting growth and progress. That dystopic vision is why people are afraid. Some may float the idea of disconnecting non-compliant countries from the Internet. While you can never disconnect whole countreis completely, you can certainly reduce the bandwidth to uncompetitive levels. This imperialist perspective may grow in volume over time, but it will take too long to implement to matter (and possibly it may become harmful).