Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



Political Science

First Advisor

Jacinda Swanson

Second Advisor

Mark Hurwitz

Third Advisor

Emily Hauptmann


This paper addresses the following questions: Why does property exist? How does one come to own something? In it, the author attempts to answer these questions by comparing the property theories of political theorists John Locke and David Hume with modern U.S. copyright law, with a special focus on digital copyrights. The purpose of this comparison is to identify principles and explanations of property that are consistent between seventeenth- and eighteenth-century political theories and modern laws. The product of this comparison is the discovery that Locke, Hume, and U.S. Copyright Law either use labor as a metric for ownership or at least have a notion of property that is sympathetic to the use of property as a metric. Moreover, they each treat property as a means to the welfare of people within society, although for different reasons. These general commonalities appear to be embedded in the U.S. notion of property, potentially explaining why property exists in addition to providing a somewhat compelling understanding of how such property is assigned.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access