Social Sciences, 2017

Lawrence Liang

Professor, School of Law, Governance and Citizenship, Ambedkar University, Delhi

The Infosys Prize 2017 for Social Sciences is awarded to Prof. Lawrence Liang in recognition of his creative scholarship on law and society. His prodigious output in the fields of copyright law, digital technologies and media, and popular culture consistently raises probing questions about the nature of freedom, rights, and social development. His provocative answers link historical context and ethical practice in unexpected and illuminating ways.

Bio

Lawrence Liang is Professor of Law at Ambedkar University Delhi. He studied at the National Law School University of India and Warwick University, and has been a Visiting Scholar at Yale, Michigan and several other universities.

He is co-founder of the Alternative Law Forum, Bengaluru, and has played a major role in incorporating Open Source ideas into the cultural domain. He has published widely in scholarly books and journals and is a prominent presence in public debates.

Scope and impact of work

Lawrence Liang is a legal scholar and activist who has made outstanding contributions to the study of free speech, intellectual property and access to digitalized knowledge in India, from a comparative and global perspective. As a co-founder of the Alternative Law Forum, he has shown a remarkable commitment to widening access to legal resources for marginalized groups.

His work demonstrates how issues of intellectual property and piracy play out in the realm of law and media in India. Liang displays a deep grasp of the history of copyright issues in the West, and demonstrates the dynamics through which the domain of copyright protection, licensing and commodification has expanded in the era of liberal capitalism. His contributions have the potential of enriching not just our understanding of social progress but the methodological foundation of the social sciences.

Citation by the Jury

Prof. Lawrence Liang has made major theoretical contributions through studying the life experiences of Indians around issues of property, creativity and access. He has helped us rethink how law and ethical practice can address the challenges of exclusion in the emerging digital worlds of India. His conceptualization of ‘distributed’ cultural commodities provides a nuanced understanding of the different rights at stake in creative products and the processes by which these rights are commoditized.

Liang is also India’s leading scholar of free speech jurisprudence. He has expanded the boundaries of law by interpreting law as performance; and he has enriched cultural studies by focusing on the legal infrastructure of culture.

Lawrence Liang’s writing stands out for its combination of playful sensibility and philosophical depth. His combination of deep legal scholarship, interdisciplinary originality and commitment to social inclusion is exemplary and represents the values enshrined in the best of social science.

Congratulatory Message from the Jury Chair – Kaushik Basu

“Lawrence Liang has worked on copyright law, digital technologies and media and trying to understand the implications for individual freedom, rights and also for development. It is arguable that we're entering a world where intellectual property will be as important as used to be land rights, once upon a time. And so the kind of work that Lawrence Liang has done is likely to gain in importance for India and for countries around the world.”