By Richard A. Epstein*

Download a PDF version of this foreword here.


Two of the papers included in this issue of the NYU Journal of Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law illustrate, in the context of intellectual property law, a tension that exists across all areas of international law. To what extent should the rules of different countries be harmonized? Or, alternatively, to what extent should these laws be adapted to the local conditions within any given country? A moment’s reflection should indicate why there is no pat answer to this challenge in any area of substantive law.

On the one side, a stout commitment to uniformity of law facilitates the cross-border transactions that are the life-blood of international trade and cooperation. The ability of private parties and government officials to know that the rules of the game are constant in all arenas should lead to a massive simplification of the overall operation of the international legal order. The gains from such simplification should be substantial even in transactions requiring harmonization between only two legal systems. But with intellectual property, nothing is more common than for key transactions to have a global reach that could easily require cooperation among dozens of nations. The greater the variation in local laws, the harder it becomes to do business in multiple jurisdictions simultaneously.