Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Peter Lindsay

Second Advisor

Andrew Jason Cohen


Ordinary private property rights to things like land and money are typically assumed to be permanent. In contrast, intellectual property (IP) rights usually have term limits. Copyrights, patents, and trademarks all expire by default sometime after they’re formed. I argue that ordinary property (OP) should be more like IP. Certain types of private property rights should be subject to term limits, and after expiration the property should enter a tangible public domain. First, I define private property. Second, I argue the purpose of private property rights is to facilitate access to resources, goods, and services. Conceptions of private property which undermine such access are unjustified. Third, I argue that term limits and the public domain help IP rights fulfill their purpose and could do the same for OP rights. Fourth, I consider specific policy proposals which would put term limits into practice. Finally, I raise and counter potential objections.

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