Intuitive intellectual property law: A nationally-representative test of the plagiarism fallacy

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Studies with convenience samples have suggested that the lay public’s conception of intellectual property laws, including how the laws should regulate and why they should exist, are largely incommensurate with the actual intended purpose of intellectual property laws and their history in the United States. In this paper, we test whether these findings generalize to a more diverse and representative sample. The major findings from past work were replicated in the current study. When presented with several potential reasons for IP protection, the lay public endorsed plagiarism and felt that acknowledging the original source of a creative work should make copying that work permissible—viewpoints strongly divergent from lawmakers’ intent and the law itself. In addition, we replicate the finding that lay people know remarkably little about intellectual property laws more generally and report little experience as users or creators of creative works.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0184315
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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