Morality, an individual’s subjective sense of right and wrong, is the biggest influence in shaping law-related behavior. And not surprisingly, both psychologists and legal theorists have begun to explore the links between personal morality and large-scale copyright infringement. But to date, this analysis has not rigorously answered some basic questions. Why do people believe that theft is immoral? And why do so many differentiate theft from infringement?
This Note attempts to answer these questions by exploring and applying recent scholarship into the neuroscience of moral decision-making. In doing so, this Note sets forth a hypothesis about our innate intuitions of property and how these intuitions may affect our moral decisions regarding intellectual property, such as copyright. In developing this analysis, I first present a brief overview of the law and legal response to file sharing, illustrating how copyright owners’ response, based on copyright law, has been unable to stop the rampant and widespread infringement of copyrighted works on the Internet. Second, I review the emerging Hybrid Theory of Moral Cognition. Using this theoretical framework, I set forth the Innate Property Intuition Hypothesis, a hypothesis that suggests humans share an innate and intuitive understanding of property and ownership, inherited as a result of evolution. Using this hypothesis, I explain why and how so many Internet users are able to morally distinguish infringement from theft. Finally, I speculate as to what, if anything, the copyright industries can do in light of our innate moral intuitions.