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This article challenges a central tenet of the recent criticism of intellectual property rights: the suggestion that the control conferred by such rights is detrimental to the continued flourishing of a public domain of ideas and information. I argue that such theories understate the significance of the intangible nature of information, and thus overlook the contribution that even perfectly controlled intellectual creations make to the public domain. In addition, I show that perfect control of propertized information - an animating assumption in much of the contemporary criticism - is both counterfactual and likely to remain so. These findings suggest that increasing the appropriability of information goods may in many cases grow, rather than diminish, the quantity of open information. Further, the benefits of control in fostering coordination and enabling flexibility in arrangements are essential elements of promoting progress in a changing world.


intellectual property, copyright, patents, information wants to be free, sharing

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Columbia Law Review

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103 Colum. L. Rev. 995 (2003)