SOPA and Three Ways to Think about Intellectual Property

The controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the United States and the attempts to shut down the peer-to-peer music-sharing website Pirate Bay in Europe have brought the debate over intellectual property to the fore. Professor Stephen Davies explains the three different ways people tend to understand intellectual property. Intellectual property:

– May be considered a natural right with the same qualities as physical property.

– May be considered a special type of property created by governments that is time limited.

– May be considered intellectually incoherent and dangerous.

Professor Davies holds the third view of intellectual property. He argues that it is dangerous because it limits the way people are able to use their physical property. He suggests that patents and copyrights may actually work to stop or hinder innovation in many areas. Whichever view you hold, the debate is complicated and divides people from all parts of the political spectrum. The argument over intellectual property has widespread implications, and we are going to see a lot more of it in the years to come.

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