St. Columba: The patron saint of copyleft...

Russell Turpin
Thu, 21 Mar 2002 21:59:01 +0000

Thomas Stewart:
>The fundamental legal, moral, and pragmatic basis for
>copyrights and patents is that producers of original work should, for a 
>legally defined period of time, have exclusive right to the income from 
>that work

Interestingly, this idea notion did not receive much
respect at the time the US Constitution was written.
Both Franklin and Jefferson were very clear that
intellectual capital is uniquely the kind of thing
that does not hurt one when another uses it. Franklin
especially was critical of those who tried to profit
by restricting others from using their ideas. But,
they also believed that a limited monopoly would
encourage progress. And encouraging progress -- NOT
enriching creators -- is the SOLE legal justification
for copyright and patent in US law.

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts,
by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors
the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and
Discoveries." [US Constitution, Article 1, Section 8,
Clause 8.]

That such monopoly accrues to the benefit of the author
or inventor is side effect, not justification. From
the viewpoint of the Constitution, copyright and patents
are not fundamental rights, like freedom of religion and
speech, but rather are a pragmatic compromise, a special
monopoly granted to encourage progress.

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