Property and the Public Domain

Hanoch Dagan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter relies on the lessons from Chapters 1 and 2 to enter one of the most intense debates on the question of property's frontiers: the delineation of the borders between intellectual property and the public domain. Friends of the public domain are typically suspicious of property talk. Property is perceived as the foe, epitomizing the threat of a shrinking public domain and the expanding rights of copyright holders to preclude others from using cultural artifacts. The chapter examines this commonplace view, which is considered misguided and unfortunate. It is misguided because the split between a property discourse and a thriving public domain is largely illusory. Nothing in the language of property necessarily invites the agenda of the content industry. Quite the contrary: both the form and the substance of property, as conceptualized in this book, convey helpful lessons for achieving the goal of re-crafting a thriving public domain. It is unfortunate because the concept of property has enormous rhetorical power in shaping people's expectations and, therefore, in constructing what they deem normal, obvious, and thus clearly justified. For both these reasons, friends of the public domain should embrace property rather than struggle against it.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProperty
Subtitle of host publicationValues and Institutions
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199894994
ISBN (Print)9780199737864
StatePublished - 1 May 2011


  • Copyright holders
  • Intellectual property
  • Property
  • Public domain


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