A bunch of folks have been pointing me to a series of posts at the Volokh Conspiracy
blog concerning intellectual property. The one that kicked it off may be the most interesting. For a while, we've pointed
people to Thomas Jefferson's views on "monopolies" and his overall reluctant feeling towards patents and copyrights. Many of Jefferson's feelings on this topic were made clear in letters between himself and James Madison. However, Madison is often credited with convincing Jefferson that patents were necessary when Jefferson was against the idea entirely. The post on Volokh, though, shows that Madison was, like Jefferson, very aware of the dangers of such monopolies
and warned that it should only be used in the rarest of cases:
But grants of this sort can be justified in very peculiar cases only, if at all; the danger being very great that the good resulting from the operation of the monopoly, will be overbalanced by the evil effect of the precedent; and it being not impossible that the monopoly itself, in its original operation, may produce more evil than good.
You might want to remember this any time someone insists that the founding fathers were huge supporters of stronger and stronger intellectual property laws.