Benkler is celebrated for his work in the fields of information law and policy, communications law and intellectual property. He also specializes in the field of biopharmaceutical policy and the effect of the patent system on pharmaceutical drugs in developing companies.
But according to John G. Palfrey, Jr. ’94, who serves as clinical professor of law and executive director of the Berkman Center, Benkler’s most important work investigates the impact of the internet on democracy in today’s society.
"His work is significant because in an Internet era, he has helped us understand how and why systems such as Wikipedia are such a big success, and how it matters to the economy and political systems," Palfrey said. "He has also contributed enormously in terms of his work on the effect of the patent regime on the development of both software and drugs."
Benkler has written two books and has published over two dozen academic articles in prominent journals such as Science, the Yale Law Journal and the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology. His 2006 release "The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom" and his 2002 essay "Coase's Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm" are two of the most important works in the field of cyber law and have changed how researchers perceive economic motivators, Palfrey said.
"He made the case that there are other motivators to drive people to create economic growth beyond what Coase or other economists would have said in previous generations," Palfrey said. "He has helped us explain what’s going on with the open source world and phenomena such as Wikipedia and how it is that the Internet has facilitated or amplified the extent to which people create things when they’re not just getting paid money for it."
Benkler, who is currently attending a conference in Europe, wrote in an e-mailed statement that he hopes his new position will allow him "to be able to facilitate conversations that might not have otherwise happened" across otherwise dissimilar fields of study.
"My work lies at the intersection of several quite distinct disciplines, so I have over the years found myself talking to many people who don’t naturally talk to each other," Benkler wrote.
Before Benkler became Professor of Law at Yale Law School in 2003, he was a director of the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law and Policy and the Information Law Institute and a professor of law at New York University School of Law. He also served as a visiting professor to both Harvard Law and Yale Law Schools just prior to joining the Yale Law faculty.
"Yochai has been a member of our Berkman team right from the beginning," said Weld Professor of Law Charles R. Nesson ’60, the founder and faculty co-director of the Berkman Center. "He is one of the most powerful thinkers in the cyber environment and to have him now come to Harvard is absolutely wonderful."
In addition to his academic work, Benkler was also an associate to Ropes & Gray in Boston and a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer. A 1994 graduate of Harvard Law School, Benkler also received an international law degree from Tel-Aviv University in 1991.
"Yochai Benkler is a pathbreaking scholar whose work challenges current thinking about the way society regulates ideas and information," Law School Dean Elena Kagan said in a statement. "His deep and probing intellect combine with his interdisciplinary focus and range to make him an important appointment not only for Harvard Law School, but for the entire University. He is a marvelous teacher and mentor, and he will bring boundless energy, excitement, and vision to our community. We are very lucky to have him."
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