Cornell Law Review Volume 95 Issue 4

Individual Creators in the Cultural Commons

In many ways, we now live in a world made possible by widespread individual ownership.  Kant and Locke, and perhaps especially Hegel, would be proud: property rights are widely assigned to people who work to express themselves.  In today’s legal/economic structure— characterized both by large integrated entities and widespread dis-integrated, or small-scale, production—there are many owners.  This widespread ownership brings with it great  advantages of individual autonomy and decentralized power.

But it also brings a problem.  When many components must be integrated to form a salable product, or when there is great value in the aggregation of many dispersed pieces, individual ownership can be costly.  Whatever label is placed on it—anticommons, excessive transaction costs, a runaway “permission culture”—the reality is the same: too many rights, too many clearances required, too many resources wasted assembling all the little pieces.  Put simply, too much property.


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