Freedom, ownership and copyright: why does Kant reject the concept of intellectual property?

Pievatolo, Maria Chiara Freedom, ownership and copyright: why does Kant reject the concept of intellectual property?, 2010 [Preprint]

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English abstract

In 1785 Immanuel Kant wrote a short essay, Von der Unrechtmäßigkeit des Büchernachdrucks, which is sometimes translated as Of the injustice of counterfeiting books; later, he repeated almost the same thesis in the Rechtslehre, § 31, II, within Die Metaphysik der Sitten (1797). As most scholars, in the field of humanities, take intellectual property for granted, the representation of Kant like an intellectual property forerunner is still a dangerously mistaken commonplace. According to Kant's Architectonic of Pure Reason the philosopher is closer to a lawgiver than to an artificer, if philosophy is considered in its Weltbegriff or cosmopolitan concept (AA.03: 542.23-30). Because such a lawgiving is based upon that reason with which every human being is endowed, the laws of reason should be thought as public laws and not as individual, private creations. How could a public law be consistently viewed as an object of private intellectual property? Kant avoids such a contradiction because his justification of authors' right does not rely on intellectual property, but on the meaning and the function of both authors and publishers in the world of the public use of reason. Therefore, Kant's theory of copyright is compatible with the Weltbegriff of philosophy. Furthermore, more interestingly, it is also possible to demonstrate that it is consistent with his general theory of property, as stated in the Metaphysik der Sitten. The following essay, after presenting a short sketch of Kant's authors right as personal right, will introduce Fichte's theory of intellectual property to strengthen the case of Kant's rejection of intellectual property, by comparing his ideas with the theory of an actual intellectual property advocate, like Fichte. Eventually, to read the proposed interpretation of Kant in a wider theoretical perspective, it will attempt to connect it to his general theory of property of the Metaphysik der Sitten.

Item type: Preprint
Keywords: Kant, Fichte, copyright, intellectual property, Enlightenment, Roman Law, ownership, personal right
Subjects: E. Publishing and legal issues. > ED. Intellectual property: author's rights, ownership, copyright, copyleft, open access.
E. Publishing and legal issues. > EE. Intellectual freedom.
Depositing user: Maria Chiara Pievatolo
Date deposited: 20 Jan 2010
Last modified: 02 Oct 2014 11:56

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