Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power

A little break from pure politics, Thomas Jefferson and Intellectual Property including Copyrights and Patents

The historical records around these quotes reveals quite a lot, but I find it is hard to get perfectly clearly into the mind of Thomas Jefferson on this and perfectly clearly into the role that Jefferson had in that line in the Constitution. However, I am going to argue that he did play a critical role and that he had a clear view that Intellectual Property must only be protected for a time and not be either allowed simply to be in the public domain, nor given ownership through life and successive generations. In other words, while Jefferson was not acting alone in the constitutional provision, he was one of the key procreators of the modern understanding of Intellectual Property.

But some people have noted Jefferson was in France while the U.S. Constitution was written. So, he could not have been seminally involved in establishing what has become the world standard for Intellectual Property. Indeed, the Constitution was penned by James Madison. I will argue that Jefferson was in fact seminally involved, and after the Constitution was written and ratified, involved as a key procreator and definer of Intellectual Property as we know it today.

It is certain that the U.S. Constitution is the first national law that grants intellectual property protection for limited times. Indeed, only England in those times had any form of Intellectual Property Protection. In Europe, the protection of Intellectual Property was considered shameful. The mainland European reasoning is not Jefferson’s reasoning above. It is that society is harmed if people can own ideas. Secret your ideas from observation if you want to own them. Otherwise there is no protection.

In England there was a notion of ownership of Literature (Copyright) and Art (Patents). The terms “copyright” and “patent” were in use. However, in England, these Intellectual Properties were protected as ordinary property, owned for life and heirs.

The framers of the Constitution added “limited times.” The deal to strike the balance between societal harm by letting people own ideas and societal benefit by not letting people own ideas except through secrecy, was the addition of “limited times.”

I think I am in the mainstream on this. That if people secure a copyright or patent they should have protection and profit from that patent or copyright for a certain time. It seems that we’ve strayed too far in allowing protections that last so long that these rights last longer then people’s lifetimes. In effect giving us a system of ordinary property regarding intellectual property, a system which Jefferson had rejected. It is unfair in that someone would have else besides the original inventors would invented the light bulb, a Disney type character or a Windows type operating system. Its the pendulum that has swung the other way, intellectual property protection has become so draconian that rather then encourage innovation it discourages innovation.

Maureen Dowd on Rumsfeld’s departure, A Come-to-Daddy Moment

Poppy Bush and James Baker gave Sonny the presidency to play with and he broke it. So now they’re taking it back.

They are dragging W. away from those reckless older guys who have been such a bad influence and getting him some new minders who are a lot more practical.

In a scene that might be called “Murder on the Oval Express,” Rummy turned up dead with so many knives in him that it’s impossible to say who actually finished off the man billed as Washington’s most skilled infighter. (Poppy? Scowcroft? Baker? Laura? Condi? The Silver Fox? Retired generals? Serving generals? Future generals? Troops returning to Iraq for the umpteenth time without a decent strategy? Democrats? Republicans? Joe Lieberman?)

The defense chief got hung out to dry before Saddam got hung. The president and Karl Rove, underestimating the public’s hunger for change or overestimating the loyalty of a fed-up base, did not ice Rummy in time to save the Senate from teetering Democratic. But once Sonny managed to heedlessly dynamite the Republican majority — as well as the Middle East, the Atlantic alliance and the U.S. Army — then Bush Inc., the family firm that snatched the presidency for W. in 2000, had to step in. Two trusted members of the Bush 41 war council, Mr. Baker and Robert Gates, have been dispatched to discipline the delinquent juvenile and extricate him from the mother of all messes.

Mr. Gates, already on Mr. Baker’s “How Do We Get Sonny Out of Deep Doo Doo in Iraq?” study group, left his job protecting 41’s papers at Texas A&M to return to Washington and pry the fingers of Poppy’s old nemesis, Rummy, off the Pentagon.

“They had to bring in someone from the old gang,” said someone from the old gang. “That has to make Junior uneasy. With Bob, the door is opened again to 41 and Baker and Brent.”

W. had no choice but to make an Oedipal U-turn. He couldn’t let Nancy Pelosi subpoena the cranky Rummy for hearings on Iraq. “He’s not exactly Mr. Charming or Mr. Truthful, and he’d be on TV saying something stupid,” said a Bush 41 official. “Bob can just go up to the Hill and say: ‘I don’t know. I wasn’t there when that happened.’ ”

Bob Gates, his friends say, had been worried about the belligerent, arrogant, ideological style of Rummy & Cheney from the start. He fretted at the way W.’s so-called foreign policy “dream team” — including his old staffer and fellow Soviet expert Condi — made it up as they went along, even though that had been their complaint about the Clinton foreign policy team. A realpolitik advocate like his mentor, General Scowcroft, he was critical of a linear, moralizing style that disdained nuance, demoted diplomacy and inflated villains. In 2004, he publicly questioned the administration’s approach to Iran.

While Vice went off to a corner to lick his wounds, W. was forced to do his best imitation of his dad yesterday, talking about “bipartisan outreach,” “people have spoken,” blah-blah-blah — after he’d been out on the trail saying that electing Democrats would mean that “the terrorists win and America loses.”

“I share a large part of the responsibility” for the “thumpin’ ” of Republicans, he told reporters. Actually, he gets full responsibility.

W. has stopped talking about democracy as a standard of success in Iraq; yesterday, he said that Iraq had to “govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself.”

He was asked if his surprise at the election results showed he was out of touch with Americans. “I thought when it was all said and done,” he replied, “the American people would understand the importance of taxes and the importance of security.”

So it was just that the American people were too dumb to understand? W. also managed to bash Vietnam vets, saying that this war isn’t similar because there’s a volunteer army, so “the troops understand the consequences of Iraq in the global war on terror.” Is that why W. stayed out of Vietnam? Because he understood it?

M’s Dowd being in the loop so to speak would know better then me, but Gates and Baker both drink from the same fountain of ideology that Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld drink from. If she sees a few degrees of difference well I’ll just keep my fingers crossed.

“Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power.” James Madison