The scope of property: why does Kant reject the concept of intellectual property?

Pievatolo, Maria Chiara (2008) The scope of property: why does Kant reject the concept of intellectual property? WORKSHOPS IN POLITICAL THEORY, MANCHESTER SEPTEMBER 10-12TH, 2008.


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Although both Fichte and Kant are often included among the intellectual property forerunners, there are at least three outstanding differences between the former and the latter: 1. Fichte bases copyright on the individual originality in the form of expression; Kant does not mention originality at all; 2. Fichte equates copyright with private property; Kant rejects the very possibility of founding the authors' right on a ius reale; 3. Fichte believes that copyright violators deserve the same harsh punishment of thieves. According to Kant, the unauthorized printer should simply compensate all the damages he caused to the author or to his authorized publisher. While Fichte is an intellectual property endorser, Kant is an “enlightened” conservative who supports the Roman law tradition, according to which property applies only to material, touchable things (res quae tangi possunt). He accepts the copyright principle, according to which authors are entitled to decide how to publish their works, but describes it as rights concerning only the relationships among persons. The rights of the publishers, besides, are justified only as long as they help authors to reach the public. Kant's copyright is not property; it has the function to protect authors' freedom to share their texts as they prefer, and to make it easier to communicate them to the public. And, if it has to be seen as a means to foster the publication and the diffusion of texts, its rules should also depend on the prevailing media technology. Kant maintained almost the same copyright theory both in his 1785 essay Von der Unrechtmäßigkeit des Büchernachdrucks and in the Metaphysik der Sitten (1797). In 1797, however, Kant bases property on a possessio noumenon that is different, as a juridical, rational possession, from the physical possession. Why does Kant reject the very concept of an intellectual property while advocating an intellectual theory of property? Answering to such a question could help us the provide a general understanding of the functions and the limits of property in Kant's thought.

Item Type: Article
Natural Language Keywords: Kant, Intellectual property, property
Subjects: Dip. Scienze della Politica > Filosofia Politica
Filosofia > Miscellany of philosophy > Filosofia Politica
Filosofia > Modern Western philosophy > Filosofia Politica
Depositing User: Maria Chiara Pievatolo
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2009
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2010 09:00

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