The Challenge of Human Rights

The Challenge of Human Rights

Past, Present and Future

Edited by David Keane and Yvonne McDermott

The Challenge of Human Rights takes a detailed and exploratory approach to topics across the field of human rights, and seeks to map a path for future research and policy development.

Chapter 16: Intellectual Property: A Human (Not Corporate) Right

Megan M. Carpenter

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, law and society, politics and public policy, human rights


Megan M. Carpenter* There is a discord between intellectual property and human rights, which begins in the human rights instruments themselves. In its General Comment 17, for example, the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights distinguishes intellectual property rights from human rights. Human rights, on the one hand, are ‘fundamental, inalienable and universal entitlements belonging to individuals and, under certain circumstances, groups of individuals and communities’1 and are ‘timeless expressions of fundamental entitlements of the human person.’2 Intellectual property rights, on the other hand, are described as ‘first and foremost means by which States seek to provide incentives for inventiveness and creativity’3 and ‘primarily protect business and corporate interests and investments.’4 The temptation to categorize intellectual property rights as solely a vehicle for protection of corporate interests is great. Pharmaceutical companies participate in a multi-billion dollar industry while indigenous communities with traditional medicines see little benefit. Media companies enjoy increasing market share while independent creators who struggle to find time and energy to work on their art outside of their day jobs are marginal to the operation of intellectual property rules. Sacred religious and * I would like to thank Kathryn Murphy, my (tirelessly hardworking) research assistant. 1 UN Committee On Economic, Social & Cultural Rights, ‘General Comment No. 17: The Right of Everyone to Benefit from the Protection of the Moral and Material Interests Resulting from any Scientific, Literary or Artistic Production of Which He or She Is the Author (Art. 15(1)(c) of the Covenant)’ 21 November...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.

Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

Further information