Talk Derby to Me: Intellectual Property Norms Governing Roller Derby Pseudonyms



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Texas Law Review


Some groups use endemic social norms rather than formal law to regulate their intellectual property (IP). This qualitative empirical study extends and critiques existing work on this topic by examining how roller derby skaters guarantee exclusive use of the pseudonyms under which they compete. Roller derby names are a central part of this countercultural, all-girl sport, adding to its distinctive combination of punk and camp. Skaters have developed an elaborate rule structure, registration system, and governance regime to protect the uniqueness of their pseudonyms. The development of this extralegal governance scheme despite the ready availability of IP theories (e.g., trademark, right of publicity) to protect derby names shows that IP norms emerge independently of law's substantive (un)availability, so long as the relevant group is close-knit and the norms are welfare enhancing. These groups are especially likely to craft formal regulation and registration schemes to buttress informal norms where the relevant community is identity constitutive and where the intangible goods arise from nonmarket production. This study also suggests another way of thinking about the problem of supplying property systems, casts (further) doubt on the coherence of the prevailing neoclassical economic assumptions underlying IP law, and reflects on what it means for rules to be law.




Copyright 2012 Texas Law Review. Recommended citation: Fagundes, Dave. "Talk Derby to Me: Intellectual Property Norms Governing Roller Derby Pseudonyms." Texas Law Review 90 (2012). URL: Reproduced in accordance with licensing terms and with the author’s permission.