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Among Richard Epstein’s influential contributions to legal scholarship over the years is his writing on common law intellectual property. In it, we see Epstein’s attempt to meld the innate logic of the common law’s conceptual structure with the realities of the modern information economy. Common law intellectual property refers to different judge made causes of action that create forms of exclusive rights and privileges in intangibles, interferences with which are then rendered enforceable through private liability. In this Essay, I examine Epstein’s writing on two such doctrines: “hot news misappropriation” and “cyber-trespass”, which embraces several important ideas that modern discussions of intellectual property would do well to pay greater attention to:

(1) the private law nature of intellectual property claims,

(2) the interconnectedness of intellectual property and other basic areas of law,

(3) the compatibility of instrumental and non-instrumental considerations, and

(4) the valorization of judicial creativity in rule development.


Epstein, common law, intellectual property, misappropriation, cybertrespass

Publication Title

Journal of Legal Studies

Publication Citation

Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 48, 2019, Forthcoming.