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A Response to Julio H. Cole

Paul A. Cleveland


In his response, Professor Cole argues that creative acts do not automatically result in the ownership of ideas. He holds that people cannot own such things as cooking recipes, math theorems, fashion designs, and so forth. Of course, I do not disagree with him on this point. Viewing copyright protection as affording the same kind of right as that granted by a patent is, I believe, an error. In my previous response I argued the very same point. However, just because a mathematician, for example, cannot own specific math theorems, it does not mean that he cannot own the copyright of a math textbook aimed at teaching such theorems to a general audience. Likewise, just because a musician cannot own musical notes or chords, it does not mean that she cannot own the copyright to a particular musical composition. In short, discoveries cannot be owned because they are not scarce, but corollary products can be copyrighted because they are the essence of property.

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