Natural Law, the Pursuit of Knowledge and Authorship

34 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2008 Last revised: 7 May 2008

See all articles by Alina Ng

Alina Ng

Mississippi College School of Law

Date Written: March 21, 2008


This paper considers the emergence of the concept of authorship in copyright history as a response to the commercial market for literary and artistic works. Copyright law developed in the eighteenth century to create ownership in creative works and ensure that those who produce and distribute creative works to the public would be remunerated through the mechanisms of the commercial marketplace. Authors however, write and create for a variety of reasons, some of which are not purely economic or rational. Beyond writing for public recognition and reward through the market, authors may create and produce creative works purely as a natural human response to a deeper moral aspiration to pursue knowledge. This aspect of authorship is one that is not explored in copyright law and this paper applies natural law philosophy to copyright law by regarding authorship in the pursuit of knowledge as a common human good. By removing from copyright law the assumptions that all authors are purely rational actors seeking to maximize their economic benefits from the market and seeing authors as pursuing knowledge as a practical reasonable choice, doctrines in copyright law can be reconsidered in light of this natural law claim. This paper concludes that natural law philosophy provides an important insight into the manner in which laws and legal systems can be analyzed and clarifies many of the legal problems we face today.

Keywords: Copyright, authorship, natural law, moral philosophy

JEL Classification: K10, K30

Suggested Citation

Ng, Alina, Natural Law, the Pursuit of Knowledge and Authorship (March 21, 2008). Mississippi College School of Law Research Paper No. 2008-06. Available at SSRN: or

Alina Ng (Contact Author)

Mississippi College School of Law ( email )

151, East Griffith Street,
Jackson, MS 39201
United States
(601) 925 7176 (Phone)
(601) 925 7113 (Fax)


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