The Moral Dimensions of Intellectual Property Rights

The Moral Dimensions of Intellectual Property Rights

Steven Ang

This highly original and exploratory book analyses the role morality plays in Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs). Steven Ang builds his idea that the justification for IPRs is bound up with a simultaneous duty to share part of that intellectual resource through public rights of access and a public domain which is facilitated by the moral elements in the various dimensions of IPR. In a globalized world with globalizing IPRs where culturally assumed norms must be re-examined, this work has an urgent and important contribution to make because it takes the main features of internationally mandated IPRs as a starting point and explores the moral commitments they imply and rely on, to identify a framework for further development and reform of IP regimes.

Chapter 1: The idea of the moral dimensions of IPRs

Steven Ang

Subjects: law - academic, intellectual property law, legal philosophy


Ideas are born free; and everywhere are in chains. If one may be forgiven the conceit of paraphrasing J.J. Rousseau’s famous opening, the reference is not altogether inappropriate given that the central subject matter of this work is the nature of the moral basis for rights in ideas and the implications of this for the way these institutions should be structured. Ideas, the object of intellectual property laws, are by their nature free; in fact, more naturally free than human beings since they are not capable of tangible restraint once released to the public: it is by laws that they are enchained, not by the actual binding up of ideas themselves, but by restrictions placed upon human persons as to their use. Ideas are controlled through the restrictions we place on ourselves. Though not all types of idea are subject to intellectual property laws, through the workings of international intellectual property conventions, such rules are present in the national laws of countries in virtually every corner of the globe. Intellectual property rights are legal rights over various types of idea and intangible constructs, the central ones typically giving private persons ownership rights to exclude others in certain ways from uses of aspects of these ideas.

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