Law and Intellectual Property in a Stateless Society

Written by Stephan Kinsella for

Abstract: An ethic of self-ownership combined with Lockean homesteading of external resources provides a plausible grounding both for anarchist opposition to the state and for an attractive anarchist legal order. Such an ethic can be understood as specifying that each person prima facie has the right to control his or her own body; and that Lockean homesteading, under which the owner of any scarce resource is its first user (or his contractual transferee), should provide the basis for property rights in such previously unowned goods. Given these rules, monopoly privileges like patent and copyright (intellectual property, or IP) cannot be justified, as they infringe on self-ownership-based body-rights and/or property rights in external resources. In this article, I explain why IP rights are inconsistent with the moral grounds for a stateless society’s legal order, and speculate about the practices or laws that might prevail in the absence of IP in such a system.
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