Lockean Copyright versus Lockean Property

Journal of Legal Analysis, Volume 12, 2020

47 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2019 Last revised: 26 May 2020

See all articles by Mala Chatterjee

Mala Chatterjee

NYU School of Law; NYU Department of Philosophy; Yale Law School

Date Written: July 20, 2019


Locke’s labor theory, the most familiar of property theories, has faced centuries of philosophical criticism. Nonetheless, recent legal scholars have applied it to intellectual property while overlooking these philosophical critiques. Philosophers, on the other hand, are largely absent in IP theorizing, thus not asking whether Locke’s resilient intuition is salvageable in copyright’s domain. This Article argues that Lockean copyright is actually far more plausible than Lockean property, for it can avoid the most devastating objections the latter faces. It then defends a surprising doctrinal implication of this theoretical conclusion: that a workable Lockean copyright favors rights far more limited than those of present U.S. copyright law.

Keywords: philosophy, legal philosophy, law and philosophy, intellectual property, property, copyright law, copyright theory, property theory, political philosophy, moral philosophy, intellectual property theory, legal theory, jurisprudence

Suggested Citation

Chatterjee, Mala, Lockean Copyright versus Lockean Property (July 20, 2019). Journal of Legal Analysis, Volume 12, 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3423423 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3423423

Mala Chatterjee (Contact Author)

NYU School of Law ( email )

New York, NY
United States

NYU Department of Philosophy ( email )

New York, NY 10003-711
United States

Yale Law School ( email )

New Haven, CT
United States

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