Experimental investigations on the basis for intellectual property rights

Anne A. Fast, Kristina R. Olson, Gregory N. Mandel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Lay people routinely misunderstand or do not obey laws protecting intellectual property (IP), leading to a variety of (largely unsuccessful) efforts by policymakers, IP owners, and researchers to change those beliefs and behaviors. The current work tests a new approach, inquiring whether lay people's views about IP protection can be modified by arguments concerning the basis for IP rights. Across 2 experiments, 572 adults (recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk) read 1 of 6 arguments about the basis for IP protection (incentives, natural rights, expressive rights, plagiarism, commons, or no argument). Participants then reported their general support for IP protection. Participants also reported their evaluations of 2 scenarios that involved infringement of IP rights, including cases in which there were mitigating experiences (e.g., the copier acknowledged the original source), and completed several demographic questions. Three primary findings emerged: (a) exposure to the importance of the public commons (and to a lesser extent, exposure to the argument that plagiarism is the basis of IP protection) led participants to become less supportive of IP protection than the incentives, natural rights, expressive rights, and control conditions; (b) people believed that infringement was more acceptable if the infringer acknowledged the original creator of the work; and (c) older adults and women were especially likely to see infringement as problematic. These findings illustrate several ways in which lay beliefs are at odds with legal doctrine, and suggest that people's views about IP protection can be shaped in certain ways by learning the basis for IP rights.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)458-476
Number of pages19
JournalLaw and Human Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Law
  • General Psychology


  • copyright
  • creative commons
  • intellectual property
  • patent
  • plagiarism


Dive into the research topics of 'Experimental investigations on the basis for intellectual property rights'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this