Professor Shaver Explores Human Rights from an Intellectual Property Standpoint
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlines the basic rights all human beings are entitled to expect. It’s a fairly straightforward document, spelling out the right to vote, to have favorable working conditions, and equality before the law, among others.
But Professor Lea Shaver has zeroed in on Article 27 of the Universal Declaration, which states that people have “the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.”
“The problem,” she says, “is nobody knows what that means.” It’s this facet of the Declaration where she has chosen to focus her scholarship.
Her 2010 article The Right to Science and Culture, published in the Wisconsin Law Review , was cited by United Nations Special Rapporteur Farida Shaheed in a report on intellectual property and cultural rights adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in July 2012.
“It’s the equivalent of being cited by a court for me!” she said.
Professor Shaver taught at Yale Law School and Hofstra Law School before joining the IU McKinney faculty in Fall 2012. She holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and an M.A. from the University of Chicago. As a Fulbright Scholar in South Africa, her studies focused on essential human rights: the right to water, housing, education, for example.
She points to living standards in the United States, which increased after the New Deal. Prior to that, electricity had only been available to the wealthy, she said, and a change in government policy made electricity available to nearly everyone. This has led her to wonder “is there a human right to electricity? A human right to the internet? Are there human rights to things that change over time?”
She believes the right to participate in the culture of a society, Article 27 of the Universal Declaration, means that the ability to participate must be available to everyone. “The ideal is that we all get to make and create.”