Why Libertarians Shouldn't Be (Too) Skeptical About Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property

Article Snapshot


Richard Epstein


Progress & Freedom Foundation Progress on Point Paper No. 13.4, February 2006


This paper refutes arguments that intellectual property rights are not similar enough to ordinary property rights.

Policy Relevance

Physical property rights make sense because they make everyone better off by encouraging investment and trade. Intellectual property rights have the same affect.

Main Points

  • People who believe strongly in physical property rights sometimes do not believe in intellectual property rights like copyright and patents.


  • Intellectual property rights are not natural rights over things you can touch.


  • Physical property rights are not really “natural”  either; people living together adopt these rules because they make everyone better off in a wide range of circumstances.


  • There are some differences between how the law treats intellectual and physical property, but both are similar in improving our lives by supporting trade.


  • It makes sense to analyze intellectual property rights carefully, but they are not inferior to property rights for tangible objects.

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