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The aristocrats of intellectual property: How modern enclosure has fuelled the internet piracy revolution

Chua, Mitchel (2012) The aristocrats of intellectual property: How modern enclosure has fuelled the internet piracy revolution. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Modern intellectual property laws possess an unreasonably narrow focus on economic “incentivism” and pecuniary exploitation, which is problematic because it fails to address larger social welfare issues. This paper explores the genesis of two significant and chronologically overlapping legal evolutionary processes, that occurred in England during the 16th to 18th Century, to account for the development of this overly narrow economic focus.

The first legal process would be the conception of intellectual property laws as a result of British guild influence during the industrial age. This has accounted for the asymmetrical development of intellectual property laws, which favour right-holder protectionism and seeks to combat the growing ease of copying that technology offers.

The second process is the medieval English “Enclosure Movement”, which academics use to draw similarities between the privatisation of common lands used by rural peasants and the contemporary propertisation of intellectual resource. The effect of intellectual propertisation grants right-holders exclusionary rights and contributes to the growing lack of access to intellectual goods by the masses.

Next, this essay explores the role that multinational conglomerates have played in fostering stronger global intellectual property rights and creating informational scarcity. Corporations do so through overzealous lobbying and unfortunately, the effects of which are not confined within a domestic level, and have an upward vertical transfer on an international level as well.

Lastly, the consequential effects of intellectual propertisation are explored through the use of several case studies. Firstly, in the case of the AIDS pandemic, the inflation of pharmaceutical drug prices have effectively deprived those afflicted from accessing the necessary medicines needed to alleviate pain and prolong life. Secondly, in the case of the informational commons of the Internet, continual Governmental attempts to regulate the Internet have instead conversely accounted for the proliferation of illegal file-sharing activities.

Publication Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Law
Supervisor: Shao, Ken
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