Liberalism and intellectual property rights

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 8 (3):329-349 (2009)
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Abstract

Justifications for intellectual property rights are typically made in terms of utility or natural property rights. In this article, I justify limited regimes of copyright and patent grounded in no more than the rights to use our ideas and to contract, conjoined at times with a weak right to hold property in tangibles. I describe the Contracting Situation plausibly arising from vesting rational agents with these rights. I go on to consider whether in order to provide the best protection for the voluntary activities and consensual interactions occurring within the Contracting Situation, it might be appropriate or even necessary to move to institutions qualitatively similar to copyright and patent. I conclude that in at least some circumstances limited regimes of copyright and patent may be defendable solely on the basis of these very basic rights

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Hugh Edmond Breakey
Griffith University

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