An essential element of individual property is the legal right to exclude others from enjoying it. If the property is private, the right of exclusion may be absolute; if the property is affected with a public interest, the right of exclusion is qualified. But the fact that a product of the mind has cost its producer money and labor, and has a value for which others are willing to pay, is not sufficient to ensure to it this legal attribute of property. The general rule of law is, that the noblest of human productions— knowledge, truths ascertained, conceptions, and ideas— become, after voluntary communication to others, free as the air to common use. Upon these incorporeal productions the attribute of property is continued after such communication only in certain classes of cases where public policy has seemed to demand it. These exceptions are confined to productions which, in some degree, involve creations, invention, or discovery.
Matthew M. Pagett,
Taking Note: On Copyrighting Students’ Lecture Notes,
Rich. J.L. & Tech
Available at: http://scholarship.richmond.edu/jolt/vol19/iss2/2