Intellectual Property: Historical Look

For those of you exploring intellectual property concerns in your papers, consider this in-work paper from Gordon Hull at Iowa State University. Abstract excerpt (also a nice example of succinct yet comprehensive beginning):

Defenders of strong intellectual property rights or of a non-utilitarian basis for those rights often turn to Locke for support. Perhaps because of a general belief that Locke is an advocate of all things proprietary, this move seldom receives careful scrutiny. That is unfortunate for two reasons. First, as I will argue, Locke does not issue a blank check in support of all property regimes, and the application of his reasoning to intellectual property would actually result in a substantially limited rights regime. Second, the attempt to understand intellectual property as an instance of Lockean property, though admittedly anachronistic, offers an opportunity to further our understanding of Locke’s own thought. My major claim will thus be twofold: on the one hand, intellectual property would be an almost paradigmatic case of Lockean property; on the other hand, Locke’s provisos – specifically the widely neglected spoilage proviso – would sharply limit the scope of such entitlements. My secondary claim will be that the spoilage proviso’s neglect is undeserved, and that it deserves a more central place in our understanding of Locke.

I did not know Locke was arguing about restrictive property rights in the 17th century!

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