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As digital production and distribution developed in recent decades, alongside grew a new discourse about property and rights – and at its heart, the concepts underlying the term “intellectual property.” Philosophy professor and author Samir Chopra urges writers and speakers to reject the term and return to more fundamental legal protections for creative and scientific works. In a passionate and carefully reasoned article for Aeon, Chopra outlines the arguments for dropping the umbrella concept of intellectual property.

Summary

Writers and speakers should stop using the term “intellectual property.”

First used in 1845 in a legal decision, the term became formally recognized in 1967 with the creation of the World Intellectual Property Organization. It gained popularity more recently with the rise of digital production and distribution. It represents a way of speaking and thinking about commerce and law that harms cultural life and scientific activity. The term doesn’t serve a useful semantic purpose; instead, it advances a corporate agenda and undermines clear thinking.

The diverse materials under the umbrella term fall into four different areas of law: copyright, patent, trademark and trade-secret law.

Each of these subsumes different kinds of work, for different policy reasons, ...

About the Author

Samir Chopra, a professor of philosophy at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, is the author of several books, including A Legal Theory for Autonomous Artificial Agents.


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