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How the Law Responds to Self-Help

Douglas Lichtman

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

December 2004

U Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 232

Legal rules are typically implemented through a combination of public and private mechanisms. Burglars, for example, are deterred from unauthorized entry in part by the threat of jail time and police intervention, and in part by the knowledge that homeowners have guns, security systems, and other private measures by which to defend their property. Similarly, while entrepreneurs obviously use patent, copyright, and trade secret law to protect proprietary information, they also routinely take matters into their own hands by, for example, dividing sensitive information across employees such that no single employee ever knows enough to betray the firm completely. Every area of law can to some degree be characterized in this manner, framed in a way that emphasizes substitutability between public responses and their private alternatives. In this Essay, I examine several specific areas of law (free speech jurisprudence, trade secret law, copyright law, and patent law) from this perspective, using each as a case study from which to cull broader lessons about the proper structure for these public/private partnerships.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 71

Keywords: free speech jurisprudence, trade secret, copyright, patent

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Date posted: December 6, 2004  

Suggested Citation

Lichtman, Douglas, How the Law Responds to Self-Help (December 2004). U Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 232. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=629287 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.629287

Contact Information

Douglas Gary Lichtman (Contact Author)
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )
385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States
310-267-4617 (Phone)
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