Liberty versus Property? Cracks in the Foundations of Copyright Law

48 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2004  

Richard A. Epstein

New York University School of Law; Stanford University - Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace; University of Chicago - Law School

Date Written: April 2004

Abstract

Many modern intellectual property scholars have argued that the creation of patents and copyrights, for inventions and writings, respectively, should be resisted on the grounds that these forms of property necessarily infringe ordinary forms of liberty, in contrast to property that is found in tangible things. This article rejects that claim by showing how property conflicts with liberty in both settings, but that the different configurations of rights observed in these various areas is defensible on the grounds that the loss of liberty for all persons is, to the extent that human institutions can make it, compensated by the increased utility generated by the various property rights in question. The appropriate approach to intellectual property is not abolition but fine-tuning in an effort to increase the gains from intellectual property generally.

Keywords: intellectual property, property rights, liberty

Suggested Citation

Epstein, Richard A., Liberty versus Property? Cracks in the Foundations of Copyright Law (April 2004). U Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 204. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=529943 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.529943

Richard A. Epstein (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012
United States
(212) 992-8858 (Phone)
(212) 995-4894 (Fax)

Stanford University - Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace

Stanford, CA 94305-6010
United States

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-9563 (Phone)
773-702-0730 (Fax)

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