Libertarians long have been divided on the subject of intellectual property. Does natural law extend to intellectual property rights, just like any other property rights? Do the strictures of intellectual property amount to government-granted monopolies that limit freedom? Or are patents and copyrights simply necessary evils? Whichever view one takes has significant implications for commerce, society and policymaking.
The Progress Clause of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress authority 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." During the Constitutional Convention, this provision was adopted by an overwhelming vote and with little debate. But intellectual property was much more limited at the nation's founding than it is today.
As one notable example, copyrights are now 580 percent longer than at the time of the founders. Patents are now granted for software, designs and business methods that don't look anything like the traditional definition of “inventions." How should libertarians regard the current legal and regulatory framework and does it help or hinder progress in the digital age? And when considering reform, how can policymakers balance the interests of creators while limiting the potential for regulatory capture and industry-driven cronyism?
Join our panel of experts, as they explore these questions and more.
Reception to follow.