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Brian Kahin papers

Identifier: CBI 194

Scope and Content Note

The Brian Kahin Papers contain publications, conference reports and agendas, subject files, and other documentation regarding the recent history of government and public information, intellectual property, and the Internet.

By and large, the Papers were maintained in the order in which they were received. For ease of access, some books and serials were removed to separate boxes. Books and serials are listed at the item level, as is audio-visual material; all other documents are described at the box level.


  • circa 1970-2006

Language of Materials


Access to materials:

Access to the collection is unrestricted.


The Charles Babbage Institute holds the copyright to all materials in the collection, except for items covered by a prior copyright (such as published materials). Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provisions of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code).

Biographical Note

Brian Kahinis currently (in 2007) Senior Fellow at the Computer & Communications Industry Association in Washington, DC. He is also Research Investigator and Adjunct Professor at the University of Michigan School of Information. From 2003-2005, he taught at the University of Michigan as a Visiting Professor with joint appointments in the School of Information, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and the Department of Communication Studies.

Kahin’s research focuses on the political economy of knowledge, information technology, and intellectual property -- with a particular focus on patent reform and open standards. He co-organized Advancing Knowledge and the Knowledge Economy in collaboration with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the European Commission, and the National Science Foundation.

Kahin was previously founding Director of the Information Infrastructure Project at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Initiated by Kahin and Lewis Branscomb in 1989, the Information Infrastructure Project was the first academic research program to address the social, economic, and policy implications of the Internet. It developed an aggressive publishing program and collaborated with a wide range of institutions, including the Global Information Infrastructure Commission, the Coalition for Networked Information, the Freedom Forum, the Annenberg Washington Program, the Library of Congress, the Cross-Industry Working Team, the Computer Systems Policy Project, and the International Telecommunication Union.

As Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at the Kennedy School, Kahin developed courses on information technology, law and policy and information infrastructure. He initiated a joint course with Harvard Business School on information technology, business strategy and public policy and then, with Harvard Law School as a third partner, a course on business and the Internet. Kahin was then appointed Senior Policy Analyst at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (1997-2000), where he was responsible for issues in intellectual property, Internet policy, and electronic commerce. As part of the Administration’s task force on global electronic commerce, he initiated the interagency Working Group on the Digital Economy and chaired it on behalf of the National Economic Council. He also served as Vice Chair of the OECD Working Party on the Information Economy. He was the first chair of the interagency working group on domain names and worked with the research agencies and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to develop the Administration’s position on database protection legislation. He initiated studies on patent quality and standards policy at the Science and Technology Policy Institute.

After leaving the government, he was the first resident fellow at the Internet Policy Institute in Washington and a visiting scholar at the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy (University of California, Berkeley). He subsequently became founding Director of the Center for Information Policy and Visiting Professor in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, with affiliate appointments in the School of Public Affairs and the R.H. Smith School of Business. His work at the Center included projects on open source software, U.S. and European perspectives on information process patents, and the economic and social implications of information technology.

Kahin authored the principal Internet RFC on commercialization of Internet (RFC 1192; 1990). He is the editor of Building Information Infrastructure (McGraw-Hill/Primis, 1992) and co-editor of Public Access to the Internet, (with James Keller; MIT Press, 1995), Standards Policy for Information Infrastructure(with Janet Abbate; MIT Press, 1995), National Information Infrastructure Initiatives(with Ernest Wilson; MIT Press, 1996), Borders in Cyberspace(with Charles Nesson; MIT Press, 1997), Coordinating the Internet(with James Keller; MIT Press, 1997), Internet Publishing and Beyond(with Hal Varian, MIT Press, 2000), Understanding the Digital Economy(with Erik Brynjolfsson, MIT Press, 2000), Transforming Enterprise(with William H. Dutton, Ramon O'Callaghan, and Andrew W. Wyckoff, 2004), and Advancing Knowledge and the Knowledge Economy(with Dominique Foray, MIT Press, 2006).

Kahin helped found the Interactive Multimedia Association in 1987 and served as part-time General Counsel for ten years. He directed IMA's Intellectual Property Project, which focused on technology-based management of content. He managed testimony on patent policy, negotiated the IMA’s participation in the European IMPRIMATUR consortium, and organized public programs with the U.S. Copyright Office. (In 1997, IMA merged with the Software Publishers Association, now the Software and Information Industry Association.) Kahin currently serves on the board of the Public Patent Foundation and European Policy for Intellectual Property. and on the advisory board of the Foundation for Free Information Infrastructure. Kahin was appointed to the U.S. Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information Policy in 1995 and chaired the Committee's Working Group on Intellectual Property, Interoperability and Standards until he joined the government. He was a member of the 1992-94 Association of American Universities Task Force on a National Strategy for Managing Scientific and Technical Information. He was cited by Newsweek as one of the "Net 50" of 1995.

Kahin has also served on the board of Telecommunications Policy Research Conference, the editorial advisory boards of the Boston University Journal of Science & Technology Law and Cyberspace Lawyer, and the advisory board of the Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities. He was on the original steering committee for the Software Patent Institute (1990-91) and subsequently served on the advisory board. He was co-editor of the journal Information Infrastructure and Policy (IOS Press) from 1994 to 1996. As a consultant, Kahin's clients have included EDUCOM (now EDUCAUSE), the Council on Library Resources, and the U. S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment. As an attorney, he served as principal counsel to FARNET (Federation of American Research Networks) and the International Interactive Communications Society, the society for professionals in multimedia. In 1983-85, Kahin was coordinator for the Research Program on Communications Policy at MIT and the MIT Communications Forum under Ithiel de Sola Pool. Kahin has also been director of an arts and technology project for a state arts agency, executive director of a media arts organization, lawyer in general practice, and screenwriter. He received a B.A. from Harvard College in 1969 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1976. He has been a member of the Wyoming State Bar since 1976.

Note: Biographical information was taken from the University of Michigan School of Information web site, accessed October 23, 2007.


36 boxes (35.5 cubic feet)


Papers contain publications, conference reports and agendas, subject files, and other documentation regarding the recent history of information policy, intellectual property, and the Internet.

Arrangement of Collection

The materials in this collection are arranged into the following groups:

  1. Monographs and Serials, circa 1970-2002
  2. Documents, circa 1987-2002
  3. Audio-Visual, October 21, 1996


The papers were donated by Brian Kahin in 2007.

Brian Kahin Papers, circa 1970-2006.
Finding Aid.
Prepared by Stephanie Horowitz, 2007.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Charles Babbage Institute Archives Collecting Area

Elmer L. Andersen Library
222 - 21st Avenue South
Minneapolis MN 55455