In essence, intellectual property includes intellectual innovations, including artistic and literary compositions, inventions and prototypes, among other things found in commerce. This definition has been relevant in the United States over the last decade. In comparison, Intellectual Property has moved from simply defending the interests of maintaining trade secrets to safeguarding one’s monetary benefit. Obviously, Intellectual Property is primarily used as an industrial instrument where it has played a major role in promoting economic development. However, in most legal cases, it is only shown as a prevention action where it prohibits anyone from using a specific item. It is of the essence to recognize that Intellectual Property is used for many purposes; like any other creation, it has its benefits and drawbacks. This essay will look in-depth at Intellectual Property from an ethical point of view, which will be supported by different moral theories.
The Ethics of Intellectual Property
Essentially, like other physical properties, Intellectual Property is created, consumed, re-used, and improved with time. As such, human beings are interested in the uses of various types of mind creations. Moreover, due to its benefits, Intellectual Property becomes a target of greed and as a form of survival for humanity. Of significance is the fact that contrary to physical property, creations of the mind are not tangible, an aspect that makes it susceptible to theft. Although there is no material loss from the original creator, the appropriator has everything to gain by copying the idea. The Constitution granted authors and inventors the right to monopolize the production of goods or services in efforts to provide economic incentives for such people (Gould, and William 338). Under different moral frameworks, Intellectual Property’s current state in the United States is discussed below.
Virtue ethics is built on the premise that if you act within set traits considered good, and for the right reasons, you are considered a good person. Intellectual Property is not a meaningful concept in relation to virtue, in terms of rights of copyright holders. For instance, if an individual invents certain goods in effort to earn a living, such a person is considered virtuous as that is a means to an end. However, if that person meets their needs, but does not share with the needy due to lack of generosity, then that it being greedy wrong. Another example is the progress of arts and science, which is a good thing according to virtue ethics as it helps overcome childhood illness and live healthy lives. Such positive impacts do not mean that the developments that have been made using immoral ways should be ignored (Hinduja, and Jason 52). Creating nuclear weapons and withholding vital drugs are harmful; these are the sticking points of Intellectual Property.
The primary idea of this moral framework is that people should behave in a manner that produces the most good possible, with little negative impacts regarding all stakeholders. Evidently, there are U.S copyright and patent laws that are established for the supposed gain towards inventions and progress. However, from a utilitarian perspective, such protections only create incentives for the original creators; as such, no one else can take advantage of the invention without paying what the holder of the copyright demands. The alternative to making payments is waiting for approximately 75 years, within which the copyright is valid to make any changes or improve the creation (Gould, and William 342). It is clear that from this moral point of view, such laws are only detrimental to the public; this is a shortcoming of the current Intellectual Property.
Duty and Rights Ethics
Duties and rights are reciprocal concepts; the right of a person to be left alone, is the duty of another to keep away and leave such an individual alone. According to the rights ethics, in instances when there is a right stipulating that others should not do something, it is considered as a negative right. Arguably, the right to liberty can only be preserved by allowing people the freedom to become creative without fear of theft. However, when an invention is copyrighted, it is evident that people will be no longer free to make new creations. Also, although people have the right to own things and keep them, the only thing stolen if an Intellectual Property is copied is recognition, potential profit, and control of the creation (Helfer 4). Therefore, even if one was to classify that as theft, it can only be justified if the original inventor has been denied any rights.
Creation of the mind such as symbols, designs, inventions, and artistic works are what comprises Intellectual Property. Like any other form of property, it is created, used, re-used and improved with time. Additionally, there are provisions in the Constitution that grant the right to own and hold copyrights to one’s inventions for 75 years. From an ethical perspective, there are various theories addressing Intellectual Property, its strengths, and weaknesses. Evidently, enforcing the current laws is problematic considering that there have many shortcomings. As such, there should be a dialogue to address alternative ways to handle Intellectual Property to ensure that they are aligned with ethical standards. As a result, there will be the establishment of more moral and social systems; this will make sure that all the current ethical implications of Intellectual Property are resolved effectively.
Gould, David M., and William C. Gruben. “The role of intellectual property rights in economic
growth.” Journal of development economics 48.2 (1996): 323-350.
Helfer, Laurence R. “Regime shifting: the TRIPs agreement and new dynamics of international
intellectual property lawmaking.” Yale J. Int’l L. 29 (2004): 1-6.
Hinduja, Sameer, and Jason R. Ingram. “Self-control and ethical beliefs on the social learning of
intellectual property theft.” W. Criminology Rev. 9 (2008): 52-67.