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intellectual property


This symposium essay explores the imagined ethics of copyright: the ethical stories that people tell to justify, make sense of, and challenge copyright law. Such ethical visions are everywhere in intellectual property discourse, and legal scholarship ought to pay more attention to them. The essay focuses on a deontic vision of reciprocity in the author-audience relationship, a set of linked claims that authors and audiences ought to respect each other and express this respect through voluntary transactions.

Versions of this default ethical vision animate groups as seemingly antagonistic as the music industry, file sharers, free software advocates, and Creative Commons. "Respect copyrights," "Don't sue your customers," "Software should be free," and "I love to share" are all ethical claims about copyright that share some common intuitions, even as they draw very different conclusions. The essay provides a framework for thinking about these ethical visions of intellectual property and then puts these various visions into conversation with each other.

Publication Citation

77 Fordham Law Review 2005 (2009).


Computer Law | Intellectual Property Law | Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility