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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Spirited Possessions: Media and Intellectual Property in the American Spiritual Marketplace
by Ventimiglia, Andrew, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2015, 239; 10036192
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores the role that intellectual property law plays as it influences the circulation and use of religious goods in contemporary religious organizations in the United States. The coherence of many modern spiritual communities no longer lies in a centralized institution like the church but instead in a shared dedication to sacred texts and other religious media. Thus, intellectual property law has become an effective means to administer the ephemeral beliefs and practices mediated by these texts. I explore a number of cases to demonstrate how intellectual property law can be used to maintain and adjudicate social relations rather than simply determining the proper allocation of ownership over a contested good. This project uses a number of select case studies – the legal battles of the Urantia Foundation and Worldwide Church of God, Scientology’s lawsuits against Internet Service Providers, the practice of sermon-stealing as it relates to the growth of sermon databases – to examine how religious communities ethically justify forms of ownership in religious goods and to highlight the incongruities between theories of authorship, originality and ownership within spiritual communities and those embedded in the law. I conclude that religious property owners construct innovative strategies for knowledge production and distribution as they mobilize IP to organize social and spiritual communities, care for and protect sacred goods, produce new articulations of spiritual identity, and even use the prohibitions of law to enchant material forms.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Biagioli, Mario, Kelman, Ari Y.
Commitee: Elmore, Mark
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Cultural Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 77/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religion, American studies, Law, Multimedia Communications
Keywords: American religion, Copyright, Intellectual property, Religion and media, Secularism, Spirituality
Publication Number: 10036192
ISBN: 978-1-339-54367-3
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