This article discusses Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and in particular global IPR expansion. That globally protected intellectual property (IP) is more valuable than ever must be set against the fact that today's global network capitalism, in which IP is so valuable, also enables information to circulate beyond IP control. Similarly, global IP expansion and its resistance go hand in hand, as global IP expansionist policy contains but also encourages infringement. We document this conflict, the paradoxical space affording it, the boundary disputes that manifest it, and the global IP expansionist policy ‘ratchet’ designed, but which fails, to contain it. We then evaluate global IPRs and the case for extensions, as manifested in treaties such as ACTA, TPP and TTIP. This evaluation is undertaken though specific examinations of copyright, patent and trademark laws. Claims for the overall social benefit of global IP harmonisation and expansion policies are rejected.
Our first policy recommendation is to reverse the trend towards criminalising acts labelled as ‘piracy’.
Our second policy recommendation is that the length of time in which IP rights are protected be reduced not expanded.
Thirdly, forcing all developing countries to enact strong IP rights before they are ready to do so should be halted.
Our fourth policy recommendation is that we do not offer further depth of coverage to abstractions.