Ontology of Information and its Lessons for Intellectual Property

Posted: 11 Apr 2008 Last revised: 27 Aug 2008

See all articles by Zohar Efroni

Zohar Efroni

Stanford's Center for Internet and Society

Date Written: April 10, 2008


What is "information"? It this question answerable? Why should intellectual property scholars bother conceptualizing information? We are told that we live in the technological age, in which information is a prime resource. In turn, intellectual property [IP] regulation directly relates to this resource. Most IP scholars would probably agree that their respective disciplines concern property-like entitlements with respect to "information." Information is the subject matter around which IP laws tailor exclusory regimes. In this light, the thinness of the theoretical discussion about IP subject matter as information is quite striking. In contrast to the prevailing tendency refraining from defining information, this paper asserts that defining information - in the specific context of IP law - is both feasible and beneficial. Pondering the concept of information (and the nature of IP subject matter as information) illuminates nonobvious aspects of both theoretical and practical issues.

Borrowing insights from information and communication theories, the paper constructs a framework that conceives information as a meta-concept. Accordingly, information is a significantly unpredictable and ubiquitous dynamism, in which medial messages are being constantly created, delivered, processed, modified, changed and exchanged. Messages are the objectively detectable apparitions of that process. For analytical purposes, I propose that the information process can be broken down to atomic sequences of communication events. Each singular sequence involves a medial message passed from an originator to a recipient. The medial message, the essence of IP subject matter, fulfills two quasi-formal requirements: It must be both perceptible and comprehensible. After presenting the original model and its definitions, I turn to apply it to copyright law. By referring to U.S. and occasionally also to foreign law, the paper demonstrates how the model can describe and explain basic copyright concepts and principles. The paper further shows how information model perspectives can throw new light on legal analysis of concrete problems, for instance, the questions of authorship and originality. I argue further that the policy debate surrounding IP law can benefit from a robust theoretical conversation geared toward a more solid understanding of "information." The information model introduced in this paper hopes to furnish some initial insights in this direction.

Keywords: information, intellectual property

Suggested Citation

Efroni, Zohar, Ontology of Information and its Lessons for Intellectual Property (April 10, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1119352

Zohar Efroni (Contact Author)

Stanford's Center for Internet and Society ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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