Cold Corpses, Hot News and Dead IP: The Reasons and Consequences of a Legal Status of No-Property
34 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2019
Date Written: 2019
An oddity of Anglo-American common law is that human dead bodies do not belong to anyone, except insofar as a time-limited “quasi-property” allows descendants to bury their relatives. There are odd parallels in the non-property status of dead bodies and some un-ownable intellectual matters, which I call “NIPs” (for no IP), e.g. expired intellectual property rights. This article tracks both parallels and differences by assessing corpses and NIPs against a set of standard reasons why some things cannot be owned. It explores further parallels in the ways that interested parties attempt to evade the no-property status of both corpses and NIPs. While propertization is not the only answer to these evasions, it may be that dead bodies are becoming more propertized, while IP is becoming less so.
Keywords: ownership, non-property status, dead bodies, corpses, intellectual property, propertization, quasi-property, grave robbery
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