Adam Mossoff

Adam Mossoff is Professor of Law at George Mason University School of Law, and he is a Senior Scholar at the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property, which he co-founded at Mason Law in 2013.

Why Intellectual Property Rights? A Lockean Justification

Protect ideas and brainstorming

Today, the dominant justification for intellectual property (IP) rights is a broadly framed utilitarian theory.[1] But this was not always the case, and nor should it be. Both utilitarian and labor-desert theories offer robust normative justifications for IP rights, and historically they were both called upon by courts and commentators.[2] Unfortunately, widespread misunderstanding about labor-desert theories abounds today, especially in IP scholarship (see here and here). This essay thus details how a moral theory that justifies the right to property according to productive, value-creating labor equally justifies IP rights as property rights. This is John Locke’s property theory, and while his…

Read More

Responses

Theory and Empirics: Where Do Locke and Mossoff Leave Us

In his Liberty Forum essay, “Why Intellectual Property Rights? A Lockean Justification,” Professor Adam Mossoff argues that Lockean property theory extends to intellectual property and provides justification for related laws.[1] Like Professor Mossoff, I do not see a sharp dividing line between property and intellectual property. Indeed, as I have discussed elsewhere,[2] there are significant similarities…

Read More

As Newton Meets the A-Bomb, So Locke Meets Copyright

How does Locke’s theory of property apply to copyrights?[1] It applies in the same way that Newtonian physics applies to relativistic or quantum-scale events. It applies badly, in other words, giving uncertain and even misleading results. The essay under review, alas, offers ample proof of that effect. We would do better to reserve Locke’s property…

Read More

Why “If Value, Then Rights” Is Untenable

Adam Mossoff says it is one of Lockean property theory’s “strengths” that “it recognizes that IP rights are fundamentally the same as all property rights in all types of assets.” I am not so sure that counts as a strength. Nor do I think Locke’s theory claims to recognize this. Indeed, understanding why Locke’s argument…

Read More

The Dollars and Sense of Intellectual Property

Laws of Creation

Intellectual property rights are in the limelight today. The legal and policy disputes over patented innovation, such as the “smart phone wars,” are front page news and are debated endlessly on the Internet. Copyright law is a topic of discussion and concern among laypersons and specialists given everyone’s ability now to make perfect digital copies of books, music and movies—and the virtually costless and seamless distribution of these perfect copies over the Internet. Once a backwater for tech geeks and a small subset of highly specialized lawyers, patents, copyrights and other intellectual property rights are now common fare of above-the-fold…

Read More