Patents and Copyrights

2003-09-28

The OED saith:

Patent 1. In letters patent, an open letter or document, usually from a sovereign or person in authority, issued for various purposes, e.g., to put on record some agreement or contract, to authorize or command something to be done, to confer some right, privilege, title, property, or office; now, especially, to grant for a statutory term to a person or persons the sole right to make, use, or sell some invention.

And:

Copyright 1. The exclusive right given by law for a certain term of years to an author, composer, designer, etc. (or his assignee), to print, publish, and sell copies of his original work.

The term "right" here is, I think, stretching it. Patents and copyrights are privileges granted and enforced by some authority, i.e., they are government-enforced monopolies.

One often hears the argument that no one would create anything without such government-enforced monopolies. But this does violence to historical experience. Homer and Sophocles, Plato and Aristotle, Dante and Shakespeare, Bach and Mozart, Michelangelo and Da Vinci -- world-historical geniuses all -- did not have the benefit of such monopolies.

Further food for thought regarding "intellectual property rights"...


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal