DID JEFFERSON SUPPORT COPYRIGHT AND PATENTS?
> I just thought of a good topic for your Jefferson site. According to a > recent Cnet article, Jefferson was opposed to Copyright law being > put into the Constitution. > Cnet Article > > Could you perhaps elaborate on this? Essentially, the statement in the article you cite appears to be false. Jefferson did indeed support the right to patents and copyrights. Jefferson was in France when the constitution was debated, and I know of no letter containing an opposition to protecting the rights of invention. In fact, he recommended just such a provision to Madison when the Bill of Rights was under discussion. "I like [the declaration of rights] as far as it goes, but I should have been for going further. For instance, the following alterations and additions would have pleased me...... Monopolies may be allowed to persons for their own productions in literature, and their own inventions in the arts, for a term not exceeding __ years, but for no longer term, and no other purpose..." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:450 In addition,. Jefferson wrote the following later on: "It would be singular to admit a natural and even an hereditary right to inventors... It would be curious... if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property. If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from anybody... The exclusive right to invention [is] given not of natural right, but for the benefit of society." --Thomas Jefferson to Isaac McPherson, 1813. ME 13:333 Therefore it appears that the statement in the article is utterly false.
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