Friday, April 18, 2008

Loughlan on "theft" of intellectual property

Via Lawrence Solum's Legal Theory Blog, Patricia Louise Loughlan's short paper on a topic I've blogged before - whether copying CDs (etc.) is theft, but it's really more about the discourse of it.

Her position:

"The insulting and inflammatory language of theft... reduces a difficult policy debate, with significant economic and cultural consequences, to a crude and simplistic moral drama. “How do you tell the good guys from the bad guys”?"

Interestingly (and this is me thinking now, not Loughlan), my intuition is that the anarchist concept of theft - as in, "property is theft" - is more appropriate to intellectual property than tangible property. That's because anarchists object to the removal of goods from the public domain, where they can be enjoyed by all, into the private sphere where others are deprived of them. That removal is more contemptible in the case of easily reproducible intellectual property than in the case of tangible goods, because it deprives many more people of the good. A tangible good in the public sphere can only be in one place at any given time, so there are limits on how many people can enjoy it. Reproducible intellectual property could be used by many people in different places at the same time.

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