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 7: Epilogue

Richard A. Spinello and Maria Bottis

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


The strident attack on exclusive intellectual property rights is certainly not diminishing in any way. On the contrary, it is intensifying, as members of the academy continue their persistent critique against broad copyrights, patents for ‘everything under the sun’, and perpetual protection for popular trademarks. In recent years the public has become more interested and actively involved in this debate thanks to the publicity generated by Napster, Grokster, and other free music and movie networks. Some of this criticism has merit. Even enthusiastic supporters of intellectual property rights must admit that certain pieces of recent legislation have gone too far. As we have seen, the law now provides stronger protection for a more expansive array of intellectual objects. At the same time, it is easier to qualify for copyright protection and penalties for the violation of copyright law have become more stringent.1 These new laws expanding the scope of intellectual property rights stress the tenuous equilibrium between author’s rights and the public good. Nonetheless, much of the polemical criticism against exclusive rights goes overboard, including the deconstructionist tendency to purge individual authorship from intellectual property jurisprudence. It is difficult to accept the paradigm of collective or joint ownership for all intellectual objects even though it appears to be gaining some momentum. It is also difficult to defend the prerogative to recode works by stripping away an author’s right to control the meaning of his or her work at least for a limited amount of time. As Hughes (1999, p. 926)...

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