Locke, Intellectual Property Rights, and the Information Commons

  • Tavani H
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Section I 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. 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. (edited)

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  • H T Tavani

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