Author granted license

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Document Type


Publication Date





Yale Law School




This Article argues that a properly conceived natural-rights theory of intellectual property would provide significant protection for free speech interests. This is more than just an academic exercise. Judges have failed to use the First Amendment to provide extensive protection for free expression in intellectual property cases, in part because they mistakenly find a warrant for strong "authors' rights" in a philosophy of natural law. Natural rights theory, however, is necessarily concerned with the rights of the public as well as with those whose labors create intellectual products. When the limitations in natural law's premises are taken seriously, natural rights not only cease to be a weapon against free expression; they also become a source o affirmative protection for free speech interests.


Republished in translation by X. Shanshan & Wangsui, under the direction of Professor Li Yang, Private Law (2008). [Chinese]

Find on SSRN



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.