Property Rights in Non-rival Goods

BRYAN CWIK
JOURNAL OF POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY (2016). ADVANCED ONLINE PUBLICATION. DOI: 10.1111/jopp.12090

Some hold that the non-rivalrousness of their subject matter allegedly undercuts putative justifications of intellectual property. Because everyone could enjoy books, medicines, designs, and recorded music without precluding anyone else from doing so, there is no reason (other than, perhaps, some instrumental reasons about creating incentives) to exclude anyone from access to these items. In this article, Cwik argues that the non-rivalrousness of ideas does not undercut potential justification for intellectual property. The anti-intellectual property argument from non-rivalrousness depends on a series of wrong assumptions about what intellectual property rights are and how they function.