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Towards a critique of the moral foundations of intellectual property rights

Papaioannou, T

Journal of Global Ethics   2 (1) 67-90

January 2006   (Version of record first published August 2006)

Research in recent history has neglected to address the moral foundations of particular kinds of public policy such as the protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs). On the one hand, nation-states have enforced a tightening of the IPR system. On the other, only recently have national government and international institutions recognised that the moral justification for stronger IPRs protection is far from being plausible and cannot be taken for granted. In this article, IPRs are examined as individual rights founded upon natural law, personality development, just reward and social utility. It is argued that these foundations cannot be philosophically sustained. IPRs constitute morally indefensible political developments which aim to reproduce the capitalist division of knowledge and labour at national, international and global levels. The need for such a critical approach to the moral foundations of IPRs has increased in importance as a consequence of their role in justifying corporate power, globalisation policies and harmonisation of such.