ON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers
Published recently by Ashgate, this book is the latest title in that publisher’s admirable 'Law, Ethics and Governance’ Series which upholds good governance as 'necessary, if not crucial, for economic success and human development’ and which examines issues of good governance from the standpoint of a range of disciplines, from law, ethics and politics to economics and management theory.
The author, Hugh Breakey, of Australia’s Griffith University takes an overtly philosophical approach to his subject matter as indicated in the sub-title 'natural rights and intellectual property’ and it utilizes, primarily, the work of John Locke.
The book was written as part of his postdoctoral fellowship under the aegis of that university and certainly contributes considerable food for thought, analysis and contemplation to what may be seen as an ongoing debate as to whether intellectual property is actually the unassailable property of the individual who created it, or whether more of it should be more accessible via the public domain. As he readily acknowledges, much of his material is influenced by a range of learned publications from 'The Philosophical Quarterly’ to 'The Modern Law Review’ (in which he himself has published) and Intellectual Property Quarterly.
He argues that 'natural rights theories must include space for intellectual liberties, and so require the limitation of intellectual property rights, such as copyright and patent’. Natural rights in the jurisprudential sense may also be interpreted, we assume, as 'user’s rights’ frequently referred to in the text of this book.
Intellectual property lawyers may make of all this what they will! Writers, artists and designers working across a range of media and probably starving in garrets are likely to be rendered apoplectic.
The author does point out that before 17th century there was no copyright law as we now know it. One could argue that there was no mass literacy or mass media either before that period, in the form of the widespread use of the printing press, for example not to mention the thousands of other inventions that at the time had yet to be invented.
Nonetheless, the author constructs a most interesting argument substantiated for the most part by copious and wide-ranging research as evidenced by the massive bibliography. He relies greatly on the philosophy of John Locke and references a host of other thought provoking quotes from other thinkers on this vast subject, from Hume and Rousseau to, momentarily, that twentieth century darling of the far right, Ayn Rand, referred to as 'libertarian’.
On the whole, the author’s thesis, although controversial, is carefully argued nonetheless and concludes that freedom, i.e. Intellectual liberty, requires a balanced approach in general as well as in particular, to intellectual property rights. Students of philosophy as well as jurisprudence and legal theory will find much in this book to commend it.