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IP Triumvirate · Monday June 15, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

There are three theories as to how intellectual work should be recognised as property (or not):

  1. Privileged IP – extended by unnatural monopoly
  2. No IP – material property only
  3. Natural IP – no unnatural monopoly

Privileged IP is the predominant and received thesis. Moreover, to the most extreme of IP maximalists, the privileges of copyright and patent are seen as actually deficient, that the reproduction monopolies should be perpetual, and are otherwise dilutions, albeit tolerable if in the public good.

No IP is the predominant counter-thesis, that there is no such thing as intellectual property, that the only thing that can be the subject of property is matter, not information. Thus if a poem written on a sheet of paper is stolen (from someone’s private possession), only the theft of paper and ink is recognised, and if a copy of the words is stolen, no theft is recognised to have occurred at all.

Natural IP is the recognition of intellectual work as property from a natural rights perspective. It is offensive/incomprehensible to advocates of both the predominant thesis and counter-thesis, as while on the one hand it holds that the monopolies of copyright and patent are unnatural and derogate from the individual’s liberty, on the other hand it recognises that intellectual property is natural, that individuals have a natural exclusive right to their intellectual work. Thus with natural IP, poems can be stolen (theft of IP recognised with/without any material), though no monopoly over the poem is granted, e.g. purchasers of poems are free to make and sell copies or derivatives.



 

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