Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (School of Philosophy and Theology)

Schools and Centres

Philosophy and Theology

First Supervisor

Renee Kohler-Ryan

Second Supervisor

Patrick Quirk


This thesis argues that the political philosophy of John Locke, as mostly contained in his Two Treatises of Government, but also in a number of other of his works, and especially in relation to his theory on how property rights might be acquired, had a direct influence on the emergence of the modern notions of the author, the literary work and copyright as witnessed through a series of legal cases brought before the courts of England and Scotland over the period of 1700 to 1780. It is specifically shown that Locke’s philosophy had a direct influence on the acknowledgment of the English courts of not only property rights existing within authors in relation to their literary rights but also a subtle recognition that literary creativity also afforded authors moral rights over their works. The thesis does this by examining the emergence of the paper and printing industry over time and then following an historical arc which shows the emergence of the three notions under consideration. Having reviewed philosophical and political theories of property and property rights over the ages, the thesis then dissects a number of key legal cases to establish the direct influence that John Locke’s writings had in relation to an acknowledgment of intellectual property right acquired through mental labour. The thesis contributes to work in this are as it identifies Locke’s influence is establishing not only legal property rights over creative works but also certain moral rights.

Included in

Philosophy Commons