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Faculty Profiles

Toni Lester

  • Professor
Academic Division: Accounting & Law


In the context of Babson's top ranking for entrepreneurship and innovation education, Toni Lester has developed advanced legal studies and liberal arts courses in Arts and Entertainment Law; Privacy Law in the Age of Big Data; Intolerance and Culture; and the Regulation of US and International Business. With a longstanding record of writing about global inequality, her anthology, "Gender Nonconformity, Race and Sexuality" (University of Wisconsin Press) is a seminal work in the field of intersectionality. Current projects explore how creative practices of marginalized people are appropriated without consent, attribution or compensation, and how technology and privacy issues impact artistic creation and human rights. Her 2014 article, "Blurred Lines Where Copyright Ends and Cultural Appropriation Begins", anticipated the famous court case's outcome a year in advance of its ruling. Lester was an Advisory Group member for the 2015 UN Office of Human Rights Special Rapporteur Report on Cultural Rights, Copyright Policy, and The Right To Science and Culture; and helped negotiate the college's new Intellectual Property policy concerning the use of faculty materials domestically and internationally. She has been a Visiting Scholar at Cornell University, Stanford University, Kent Law School, Westminster Law School, and the University of Helsinki. Recent articles: "Questions of Trust, Betrayal and Authorial Control in the Avant Garde" (Marquette Intellectual Property Law Review), and "Content-ID-Algorithmen und das Dilemma der falschen Treffer" (with co-author D. Pachamanova), in "100 Jahre (Years of) Copyright" (Berlin Museum of World Culture's "100 Years of Now" Book series). Lester is also an award winning composer and creative artist. A sampling of her work is below.

Academic Degrees

  • Ph D, Northeastern University
  • MA, New England Conservatory of Music
  • JD, Georgetown University
  • BS, Georgetown University

Academic Interest / Expertise

Creativity and Innovation; Arts and Culture; Intellectual Property; Privacy; Technology; Human and Civil Rights; Feminist/Critical Race/Queer/Class Theory; Law and Society

Awards & Honors

  • 2015 — Babson Scholar Award (2015-2022), Babson College
  • 2013 — Kelly Lynch Research Chair (2008-2013), Babson College


Journal Articles

  • Lester, T. (2020). Treating Creative Black Intellectual Property Ownership As A Human Right. Social Science Research Network. link
  • Lester, T. (2019). Questions of Trust, Betrayal and Authorial Control in The Avant Garde: The Case of Julius Eastman and John Cage. Vol: 23:2. Marquette Intellectual Property Law Review. link
  • Lester, T., Pachamanova, D. (2017). The Dilemma of False Positives: Making Content ID Algorithms More Conducive to Fostering Innovative Fair Use in Music Creation. UCLA Entertainment Law Review. link
  • Lester, T. (2016). Will the Cultural Defense Make A Difference in Celebrity and Sports Endorsement Contract Disputes. Pace Intellectual Property, Sports & Entertainment Law Forum. link
  • Lester, T. (2015). Oprah, Beyoncé, and The Girls who “Run the World” – Are Black Female Cultural Producers Gaining Ground in Intellectual Property Law. Wake Forest Journal of Business and Intellectual Property Law. link
  • Lester, T. (2014). Blurred Lines - Where Copyright Ends and Cultural Appropriation Begins - The Case of Robin Thicke Versus Bridgeport Music and the Estate of Marvin Gaye. Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal. link
  • Lester, T. (2012). Machismo at the Crossroads - Recent Developments in Latin American Gay Rights Law. Michigan State International Law Review. link
  • Lester, T. (2008). Negotiating The Divide Between Religious Belief and Tolerance for LGBT Rights (Special Journal Volume on Religion). Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy. link
  • Lester, T. (2006). Adam and Steve v. Adam and Eve - Will The New Supreme Court Grant Gays The Right To Marry. American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy and The Law. link
  • Lester, T. (2005). Context, Contention and The Constitution - Riding The Waves Of The Affirmative Action Debate. Suffolk Law Review.
  • Lester, T. (2004). Queering The Office - Can Sexual Orientation Discrimination Laws Transform Workplace Norms. University of Missouri Law Review.
  • Lester, T. (1999). Protecting The Gender Nonconformist From The Gender Police. New Mexico Law Review. link


  • Lester, T. (2002). Gender Nonconformity, Race and Sexuality - Charting the Connections. University of Wisconsin Press. link

Book Chapters

  • Lester, T., Pachamanova, D. (2019). Content-ID-Algorithmen und das Dilemma der falschen Treffer: 100 Jahre Copyright ("100 Years of Copyright) (Part of "100 Years of Now" Book Series). Matthes & Seitz (Haus der Kulturen der Welt - Museum of Culture - Berlin, Germany). link
  • Lester, T. (2007). Harassment, Retaliation and Relief: Sexual Orientation Discrimination - An International Perspective (eds. M. V. Badgett and Jefferson Frank). Routledge. link
  • Lester, T. (2002). The Problem of Multiple, Marginalized Identities in Sex Discrimination Law: Gender Nonconformity, Race and Sexuality - Charting The Connections (ed. Toni Lester). University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Lester, T. (1997). Efficient But Not Equitable - Sexual Harassment in The Workplace (eds. M. Oppenheimer and N. Mercuro): Law and Economics, An Alternative Perspective. M. E. Sharpe (now Taylor and Francis). link


  • Lester, T. (2017). Scandal Surrounding Kevin Spacey, Netflix, and Morals Clauses in Celebrity Contracts. Babson College Leadership Blog. link
  • Lester, T. (2016). Comments on Latest 'Sorry' Copyright Lawsuit against Justin Bieber. Babson College Leadership Blog. link
  • Lester, T. (2015). Marvin Gaye Verdict: 'Vibe" of Song as Important as Melody. Babson College Leadership Blog. link
  • Lester, T. (2015). Toni Lester on Robin Thicke, Innovation, Cultural Appropriation, and Copyright Theft. Babson College Leadership Blog. link
  • Lester, T., Noyes, E. (2012). Babson Professors Pose Two Questions To Music Entrepreneurs: Babson College Leadership Blog. Babson College Leadership Blog. link


  • Discussant, "Intellectual Property and Dispossession: A Roundtable on S. Andrews’ The Cultural Production of Intellectual Property Rights", with co-panelists Rosemary Combs (York University), Prof. A. Vaats (Boston College Law School), Prof. A. Ventimiglia (U. of Illinois), Cultural Studies Assoc. International Conference, Columbia College, Chicago, IL (Invited) (originally scheduled June 2020; new date TBA) Lester, T. Cultural Studies Association Conference, Columbia College, Chicago, Illinois (2020)
  • The Arts, Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property - Opportunities and Concerns. Lester, T. Artificial Intelligence and Sound Cultures panel at Künstler Programm des DAAD (German Academic Exchange Artists in Berlin Program) (with Jan Werner, co-founder of Mouse on Mars and Professor, Nuremberg School of Design; and Louis Chude-Sokei - Chair, Boston University African-American Studies Department) (Invited), Berlin, Germany (2019)
  • Intellectual Property As Human Rights? Lester, T. Joint Hosts - Kent Law School Critical Theory Program and Kent Law School Centre for Gender, Race and Justice (Invited), Canterbury, England (2019)
  • Invited Commentator. Lester, T. Rethinking Copyright and Related Frameworks Workshop (Sponsored by Music Pool Berlin, iRights Berlin, and Berlin Haus der Kulturen der Welt/Museum of World Cultures), Berlin, Germany (2019)
  • Intellectual Property Rights As Human Rights? Lester, T. Speaker Series: Birbeck Law School Centre for Research on Race and the Law (Invited), London, England (2019)
  • Questions of Trust, Betrayal and Authorial Control in the Avant Garde: The Case of Julius Eastman and John Cage Lester, T. International Society for the History and Theory of Intellectual Property Conference, University of Rome, Tre, Italy (Competitive Selection) (2018)
  • Is 'Fair Use' Really Fair? Lester, T. Joint Hosts: Humbolt University Graduate Colloquium Series in Transcultural and Popular Music Studies, and Humbolt University Institute of Musicology and Media Studies (Invited), Berlin, Germany (2018)
  • The Uses and Abuses of Multicultural Creative Content. Lester, T. Joint Hosts: University of Helsinki Arts and Humanities Program, and School for Social Sciences (Invited), Helsinki, Finland (2018)
  • Sound, Privacy and The Law. Lester, T. Massachusetts Institue of Technology Dissolve Sound and Spatial Music Conference (Competitive Selection), Cambridge, MA (Competitive Selection) (2018)
  • Discussant: A. Ventimiglia's Authorship and Authority in Intellectual Property: Mary Baker Eddy and the Legal Life of Religious Texts. Lester, T. International Society of the History and Theory of Intellectual Property Conference, University of Toronto Law School (Competitive Selection) (2017)
  • Music, Property and the Law - The Case of Composer Steve Reich, Race and The Piece - 'Get Out'. Lester, T. Int'l Society of Ethnomusicology Music, Property and the Law Conference, University of Texas, Austin (Competitive Selection) (2015)
  • Discussant: M. Stahl's The American Recording Industry, Aging Black R&B Performers, and the 1984-2004 Royalty Reform Movement. Lester, T. International Society on the History and Theory of Intellectual Property Law Annual Conference, Uppsala University, Sweden (Competitive Selection) (2014)
  • How Rhythm is Treated in Copyright Law. Lester, T. North Atlantic Business Law Association Annual Conference, Univ. of Massachusetts (Competitive Selection) (2014)
  • Leadership Strategies for Nonprofit Arts Organizations. Lester, T. Transcultural Exchange International Arts Conference (Invited), Boston, Massachusetts (Competitive Selection) (2013)
  • Intellectual Property Protections for Musicians and Composers in Entertainment. Lester, T. Center for New Music (Invited), San Francisco, California (2013)
  • Using Tools from Creativity to Engage in Equality Activism. Lester, T. Harvard Divinity School Speaker Series On The Arts and Activism (Invited), Cambridge, Massachusetts (2011)
  • The Pedagogy of Inclusion. Lester, T. Speaker Series On Pedagogy (Invited), Valparaiso Law School (2009)
  • Teaching the Taboo - Some Lessons from a Course on Intolerance and Culture. Lester, T. Westminster Law School Speaker Series (Invited), London, England (2006)
  • Intersectionality, Gender Nonconformity and The Arts. Lester, T. Joint Hosts: Massachusetts Institute of Tech. Theater Arts Program and Massachusetts Institute of Tech. Gender Studies Program (Invited), Cambridge, Massachusetts (2005)
  • Race and Sexual Orientation Discrimination – How Are They Different, How Are They The Same. Lester, T. Keele University Conference on Theorizing Intersectionality, Staffordshire, England (Competitive Selection) (2005)
  • Race, Sexuality and the Problem of Multiple, Marginalized Identities Lester, T. Stanford University International Conference on Women , Stanford, California (Competitive Selection) (1999)

Professional Memberships

  • Governing Board Member: International Society for the History and Theory of Intellectual Property (2020 - Present)
  • Scholar Advisory Group Member: United Nations Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights Report On Copyright Policy and the Right To Science and Culture (2015)
  • Governing Board Member: Astraea Foundation for Justice (LGBT Human Rights Organization) (2003 - 2010)
  • National Advisory Board Member: Harvard School of Public Health (Study on “Physical and Social Hazards: Jobs, Race, Gender & Health") (2005)
  • Governing Board Member: Unitarian Service Committee (Human Rights Organization) (1997 - 2001)