The Moral Dimensions of Intellectual Property Rights
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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.
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Chapter 3: The moral dimension of justification

Steven Ang


Given the theory developed in the last chapter about morality and the way moral concepts work, IPRs must have two features in order to be justifiable. First, IPRs cannot be absolute. The equal right to freedom and well-being that lends support to IPRs also requires that the non-IPR owning public has some form of right of access to the intellectual objects of such rights where this is necessary for the promotion or protection of the liberty and well-being of each individual human being as an equal person. This tension is captured explicitly in the UDHR: in the participation right (Article 27(1)) and the authors’ (and, arguably, inventors’) protection right (Article 27(2)), regarding the productions of authors and inventors (cf. §4.1.1). The design of the IPRs and their limits must reflect this tension. The second feature of a justifiable IPR regime flows from the way the tension between the protection and participation right is resolved, the way our general principles are given definition, and tends to be revised and refined with new and reformed commitments. This suggests that, given universal prescriptivism, the only way a legislator who intends to create an institution that is justifiable can go about achieving this is to express that intention and build into the rules of that institution the elements that allow such revision.

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