Paper: Beyond Bits, Memes and Utility Machines, by David Opderbeck


For an article in keeping with the concerns of the Centre of Theology and Philosophy, please see “Beyond Bits, Memes and Utility Machines: A Theology of Intellectual Property as Social Relations,” by David W. Opderbeck, Professor of Law, Seton Hall University School of Law. This was originally published in University of St. Thomas Law Journal 10, no. 3 (Article 8; 2013): 738-73.

Excerpt from the Introduction:

“Intellectual property is about human persons, human cultures, and human ideas. Persons, cultures, and ideas are more than epiphenomena of matter. Persons are more than utility maximizing machines; cultures are more than the sum of individual human beings or ideas, and ideas are more than discrete bits of unrelated data. Any theory of intellectual property that reduces human persons, human ideas, and human cultures to bits, memes, and utility machines will prove inadequate.

“This is a problem because prevailing economic and critical theories of intellectual property are reductionistic in exactly this way. Nothing but preferences and power remain. Such theories lack any meaningful ontology either of persons or of information. We need a better theory with a richer ontology. Intellectual property needs a metaphysic of the relation between human persons, cultures, and ideas. […]”

Read the rest here [PDF]



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