Locke for the Masses: Property Rights and the Products of Collective Creativity
Author(s): Robert P. Merges
In this brief Idea piece, I describe how the labor theory of property rights associated with John Locke might apply to projects such as Wikipedia, which aggregate many small contributions by dispersed contributors. These works of “collaborative creativity” represent very significant investments of time and resources, yet do not fit comfortably within the individually-oriented framework of traditional Lockean analysis. Locke’s central insight – that laboring on unowned resources ought (with exceptions and qualifications) to justify appropriation – suggests the desirability of granting some form of property interest over the products of collaborative creativity. I also explore a few practical issues that would have to be resolved to implement such a right.
Keywords: intellectual property