Information Cannot Be Owned: There is More of a Difference than Many Think

16 Pages Posted: 7 May 2004

See all articles by Jean Nicolas Druey

Jean Nicolas Druey

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Date Written: April 7, 2004

Abstract

Apart from technology, the information age has up to now badly served its idol. It has failed sufficiently to recognize specific features of information. This is shown with respect to the question whether legal rights on information can take the form of ownership. The answer is negative considering that communication by its very nature is free and constitutes a basic value, and furthermore that law is itself information and cannot systematically dispose of information flows. Analyzing the phenomenon of information, the differences of its properties as compared with those of a physical object are illustrated and assessed as fundamental; ownership would therefore be for information a Procrustean bed leading to mere arbitrariness. Intellectual property, although granting exclusive rights concerning information is not by itself opposed to these findings. But the conflict arises, if its purpose of shaping competitive advantages is spoiled to the detriment of information flows by lack of neutrality in two senses: the lack of balance between the title holder's value generation and the reward, and of neutrality towards the various kinds of communicative relationships.

Keywords: Information properties, free communication, intellectual property, ownership of information

JEL Classification: D89, H42, K11

Suggested Citation

Druey, Jean Nicolas, Information Cannot Be Owned: There is More of a Difference than Many Think (April 7, 2004). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=528663 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.528663

Jean Nicolas Druey (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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