Conference & call for papers – Lex Non Scripta, Ars Non Scripta: Law, justice and improvisation

Improvisation is an important art form and an artistic and cultural phenomenon; a manner of speaking, a way of being, and a realm of experience. For theorists improvisation as practice and as idea raise questions not just about how law comes to describe, judge, and regulate improvisation, but the converse: how improvisation might describe, judge, and regulate the law. What does or should law tell us about improvisation? What does or should improvisation tell us about law?

For intellectual property, ars non scripta is a challenge and confrontation to legal orthodoxy. Does the alternative paradigm of sharing provide a better set of governance options in the creative realm? What other models might serve the purpose of respecting the art in and of improvisation better?

For legal theory, lex non scripta is likewise a challenge and confrontation to orthodoxy. Perhaps all art is improvised. Perhaps all law. Or perhaps we have lost something that once we knew about the relationship between meaning and silence, prescription and invention: justice and law.

Improvisational art practices are also deeply inculcated in assorted social constructions that one might think a just and civil society should protect and encourage. Do we have a right to improvise, and might we improve our rights? Can improvisation be seen as an ambex within which new forms and relations of social justice might be modeled?

Paper proposals are invited on these or related themes for an international, interdisciplinary conference on “Law, Justice and Improvisation,” to be held at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on June 19 and 20, 2009 . Possible topics might include:
• The legal status of improvised music
• Music sampling as improvisation
• The law of improvisation
• Legal decision-making as improvisation
• Ruling law, improvising justice
• Improvisation and legal precedent
• Improvisation and legal/social change
• Informal norm development as improvisation
• Improvisation and art/ law and improvisation
• The normative space(s) for improvisation
• Justice and improvisation (or Justice as improvisation)
• The sounding of social justice
• The law of the singular event

Proposals for papers should include a title, the name and affiliation of the author and an abstract of 150-200 words. Please send proposals by 1 March 2009 to David Lametti ( ) or Tina Piper ( Proposals are particularly encouraged from graduate students working in a variety of disciplines on and around these themes, and conference funds will be made available to subsidize their participation.

The Conference is hosted under the auspices of the Improvisation, Community and Social Practice, a Major Collaborative Research Initiative (, and is supported by the Suoni de Popolo Music Festival, the McGill Centre for Intellectual Property Policy ( and the Faculty of Law at McGill. Please address all inquiries to or

This content has been updated on August 16, 2015 at 23:00.