Say That Again

by Mike Masnick




Add Madison's Fears Of Intellectual Property To Jefferson's

from the be-very,-very-careful dept

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.

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  1. icon
    Steve R. (profile), 20 Jun 2007 @ 1:24pm

    Benjamin Franklin's view

    James Morris wrote "Ben helped create our intellectual property law. He said, "As we enjoy great Advantages from the Inventions of others, we should be glad of an Opportunity to serve others by any Invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously." His generation created patent and copyright laws that divided the benefit of new things between the creators and the community." (emphasis added)

    This further bolsters the concept that patents are for "for the purpose of promoting progress of science and useful arts." Patents are not for the purposes of creating a toll both and authorizing monopolist rights.

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