David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Ethics and Information Technology 7 (2):87-97 (2005)
This paper examines the question whether, and to what extent, John Locke’s classic theory of property can be applied to the current debate involving intellectual property rights (IPRs) and the information commons. Organized into four main sections, Section 1 includes a brief exposition of Locke’s arguments for the just appropriation of physical objects and tangible property. In Section 2, I consider some challenges involved in extending Locke’s labor theory of property to the debate about IPRs and digital information. In Section 3, it is argued that even if the labor analogy breaks down, we should not necessarily infer that Locke’s theory has no relevance for the contemporary debate involving IPRs and the information commons. Alternatively, I argue that much of what Locke has to say about the kinds of considerations that ought to be accorded to the physical commons when appropriating objects from it – especially his proviso requiring that “enough and as good” be left for others – can also be applied to appropriations involving the information commons. Based on my reading of Locke’s proviso, I further argue that Locke would presume in favor of the information commons when competing interests (involving the rights of individual appropriators and the preservation of the commons) are at stake. In this sense, I believe that Locke offers us an adjudicative principle for evaluating the claims advanced by rival interests in the contemporary debate about IPRs and the information commons. In Section 4, I apply Locke’s proviso in my analysis of two recent copyright laws: the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). I then argue that both laws violate the spirit of Locke’s proviso because they unfairly restrict the access that ordinary individuals have previously had to resources that comprise the information commons. Noting that Locke would not altogether reject copyright protection for IPRs, I conclude that Locke’s classic property theory provides a useful mechanism for adjudicating between claims about how best to ensure that individuals will be able to continue to access information in digitized form, while at the same time also allowing for that information to enjoy some form of legal protection.
|Keywords||digital information information commons intellectual objects intellectual property John Locke Lockean proviso|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
Robert Nozick (1974). Anarchy, State and Utopia. Basic Books.
Herman T. Tavani (2003). Ethics and Technology: Ethical Issues in an Age of Information and Communication Technology. Acm Sigcas Computers and Society 33 (3):1.
Lawrence C. Becker (1977). Property Rights: Philosophic Foundations. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
John P. Barlow, David H. Carey, James W. Child, Marci A. Hamilton, Hugh C. Hansen, Edwin C. Hettinger, Justin Hughes, Michael I. Krauss, Charles J. Meyer, Lynn Sharp Paine, Tom C. Palmer, Eugene H. Spafford & Richard Stallman (1997). Intellectual Property: Moral, Legal, and International Dilemmas. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Clark Wolf (1995). Contemporary Property Rights, Lockean Provisos, and the Interests of Future Generations. Ethics 105 (4):791-818.
Citations of this work BETA
Adam Mossoff (2012). Saving Locke From Marx: The Labor Theory of Value in Intellectual Property Theory. Social Philosophy and Policy 29 (2):283-317.
U. Pagallo (2010). Ethics Among Peers: File Sharing on the Internet Between Openness and Precaution. Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society 8 (2):136-149.
Matthew P. Butcher (2009). At the Foundations of Information Justice. Ethics and Information Technology 11 (1):57-69.
Darryl J. Murphy (2012). Are Intellectual Property Rights Compatible with Rawlsian Principles of Justice? Ethics and Information Technology 14 (2):109-121.
David Faraci (2014). Do Property Rights Presuppose Scarcity? Journal of Business Ethics 125 (3):531-537.
Similar books and articles
Gordon Hull (2009). Clearing the Rubbish: Locke, the Waste Proviso, and the Moral Justification of Intellectual Property. Public Affairs Quarterly 23 (1):67-93.
A. John Simmons (1998). Makers' Rights. Journal of Ethics 2 (3):197-218.
James Tully (1980). A Discourse on Property: John Locke and His Adversaries. Cambridge University Press.
Gopal Sreenivasan (1995). The Limits of Lockean Rights in Property. Oxford University Press.
Tibor R. Machan (2009). Self-Ownership and the Lockean Proviso. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 39 (1):93-98.
Paul J. Weithman (1993). Natural Law, Property, and Redistribution. Journal of Religious Ethics 21 (1):165 - 180.
B. Andrew Lustig (1991). Natural Law, Property, and Justice: The General Justification of Property in John Locke. Journal of Religious Ethics 19 (1):119 - 149.
Frances S. Grodzinsky & Herman T. Tavani (2005). P2p Networks and the Verizon V. RIAA Case: Implications for Personal Privacy and Intellectual Property. [REVIEW] Ethics and Information Technology 7 (4):243-250.
Richard A. Spinello (2003). The Future of Intellectual Property. Ethics and Information Technology 5 (1):1-16.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads71 ( #58,272 of 1,793,151 )
Recent downloads (6 months)5 ( #169,309 of 1,793,151 )
How can I increase my downloads?