Analiza i Egzystencja (Jan 2023)

Inconsistencies in Himma's Intellectual Property Theory

  • Wojciech Gamrot

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 63


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The intellectual property theory of Kenneth E. Himma aims to vindicate natural rights to the "intellectual content of creations", which is believed to consist of abstract objects. Himma proposes a reformulation of John Locke's well-known argument in terms of value. He maintains that even if abstract objects preexist their alleged creation, then they are not yet ready for consumption until the access to them is provided by the labor of innovators and artists. He declares that making them available is an act of value creation that justifies granting intellectual property rights. In this paper several assumptions on which Himma's theory relies are identified and challenged. Against his claims, it is argued that no human labor can improve the availability of abstract objects. It is then demonstrated that "intellectual commons" cannot be "stocked" by human activities and that the alleged value creation cannot happen, because the concept of value is inapplicable to abstract objects. This derails Himma's IP justification. Finally the meaning of rights envisaged by Himma is investigated. It is shown that they cannot be exercised with respect to causally inert entities.