A Defense of Intellectual Property Rights

A Defense of Intellectual Property Rights

Richard A. Spinello and Maria Bottis

Richard A. Spinello and Maria Bottis defend the thesis that intellectual property rights are justified on non-economic grounds. The rationale for this moral justification is primarily inspired by the theory of John Locke. In the process of defending Locke, the authors confront the deconstructionist critique of intellectual property rights and remove the major barriers interfering with a proper understanding of authorial entitlement. The book also familiarizes the reader with the rich historical and legal tradition behind intellectual property protection.

Chapter 1: Introduction: Intellectual Property on the Line

Richard A. Spinello and Maria Bottis

Subjects: economics and finance, intellectual property, law - academic, intellectual property law

Extract

In a provocative speech at Harvard University’s Berkman Center in Cambridge Eben Moglen likened the fight for free software to the civil rights movement. The Columbia University professor wants to liberate software and other forms of information from the clutches of companies like Microsoft, the Hollywood ‘culture vultures’, and the greedy ‘telecom oligopolists’. He proposes ‘anarchism’ as a better mode of software production. Moglen is equally concerned about the general lockdown on ‘creative, communal resources’. In his eyes, there is something ‘morally repugnant’ about intellectual property rights.1 Thus, for Moglen and many others, the stakes in emancipating content from the thralldom of property protection couldn’t be higher – nothing less than the ‘perfectibility of humankind’.2 While Moglen’s philosophy may sound extreme even to some of those who support the Free Software movement, it typifies the anti-property rhetoric that has escalated dramatically over the last two decades. Headlines such as ‘Creativity in Chains’ and ‘The Tyranny of Copyright’ are now commonplace even in the popular media. Scholarly articles attack intellectual property rights as unjust monopolies or even as ‘restriction[s] on the liberty of everyone’ (Palmer 1990, p. 831). Conferences with intimidating names like ‘Knowledge Held Captive’ have become fairly commonplace in academia. Books such as Free Culture by Lessig (2004), Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity by Vaidhyanathan (2001), Owning the Future by Shulman (1999), or Steal This Idea: Intellectual Property Rights and the Corporate Confiscation of Creativity by Perelman (2002) develop sharp indictments...