Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Philosophy of copyright

The philosophy of copyright has several aspects. The foremost of these is the study of "justifications" for the existence of copyright laws. But there are other philosophical questions which arise from copyright, such as determining when one work is "derived" from another, or deciding when information has been placed in a "tangible" or "material" form.

Justifications for Copyright

Natural Rights

Linked to the logic of property. Locke is often cited as an authority, although it is not clear that Locke actually viewed copyright as a natural right.

Moral Rights

The basis of French copyright?

Rights of Personality

Derived from Kant. The basis of German copyright.

Consequentialist Theories

"To promote the progress of science and useful arts" (The U.S. Constitution)


Other notions of "Instrumentalism" or "Justice"

Nihilist Theories

Deny that copyright is justified, or deny that justification has anything to do with understanding copyright laws, which are simply the results of socio-political processes.

"Financiers' Copyright"


  1. William W. Fisher, Theories of Intellectual Property, in S. Munzer (ed), New Essays in the Legal and Political Theory of Property, Cambridge University Press (2000)
  2. Peter Drahos, A Philsophy of Intellectual Property, Dartmouth Publishing Co. (1996)