Originally Posted by jim2100
You are apparently under the misapprehension that copying information is "taking something" from someone. It is understandable that you are confused, since special interests have worked long and hard to perpetrate the myth that intellectual property is no different than material property. But the fact is that intellectual property is fundamentally different from material property.
You are taking the value of what they invented without having to actually go through the trouble and cost of doing the actual invention. I can see why you would want to do this, the easy road is what most people want to take, rather than the road that required hard work.
Obviously with material property, if one person has possession of a material item, no one else has possession of that material item. In contrast, information and ideas may be in the possession of arbitrarily many people simultaneously. It is impossible to deprive someone of possession of information or ideas without taking from them a material representation of that information or idea. As long as you do not take material property from someone, you have not deprived them of possession of property. However, it is widely recognized that it could be of benefit to society to provide a mechanism whereby exclusive rights to information or ideas may be assigned by law to individuals (or corporations) for a limited time.
Ideas have value, and when you take the idea, you take the value that goes with them.
Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution enumerates the powers of the federal government. Among other things, it states that
That clause is the basis for copyright and patent law in the United States. It has three important phrases:
(1) To promote the Progress of Science and useful arts
(2) securing...exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries
(3) for limited Times
The first one hints at why the federal government should be empowered to prevent people from freely using certain information or ideas. Obviously the federal government should have a good reason to use law and force (and spend taxpayer money) to prevent citizens from freely using information or ideas. That reason is "to promote progress of science and useful arts". In other words, the harm of forcibly preventing the free use of information or ideas is meant to be more than offset by the net benefit to society of scientific progress or progress in useful arts provided by the second part.
Second, in order to accomplish the first goal, the federal government has the power to pass laws that will secure exclusive rights to authors and inventors of their writings and discoveries. Note that there is no claim that the authors and inventors have a fundamental right to exclusive control of their writings and discoveries. The only rights discussed are those secured by law by the Congress.
Third, those exclusive rights are to be secured only for limited times. Congress does not have the power to pass laws to secure exclusive rights to writings and discoveries in perpetuity. The term of the exclusive rights must be limited.
You forgot a big one, but I understand why you forgot it, since it causes you trouble:
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
The law does NOT grant in perpetuity. It requires them to reapply at regular intervals and each time it will be decided if they get to keep control of it. Yes, actually, the Constitution DOES give the authors and inventors a fundamental right to exclusive control of their writings and discoveries. It is called the Tenth Amendment.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Since the Constitution does not say authors and inventors are forbidden exclusive control, it means they have the right to it. It is simply how the Constitution works.
Finally, if the framers were alive in modern times, I think they might explain their intent with that clause like this:
It is a net benefit to all American citizens to have new inventions disclosed and put to use, and for new works of art to be widely publicized and appreciated. We believe that this societal benefit can be increased by incentivizing inventors and content creators with a grant of exclusive right to copy or utilize certain content or ideas for material gain or to benefit their reputation. However, we believe the majority of future inventors and content creators will be adequately incentivized by a grant of exclusive rights for only a limited time. Therefore, we can ensure the greatest net benefit to society by incentivizing the creation of new ideas and content at the minimum cost possible. That cost, restricting citizens from freely using ideas and information, is minimized by granting exclusive rights for the minimum time that is necessary to adequately incentivize the majority of future inventors and content creators. In the majority of cases, a few years up to a few decades of exclusive rights should be adequate incentive for the vast majority of future inventors and content creators -- there are many who would continue to invent or create even with no exclusive rights at all.
That is effectively what it currently says, only far less wordy. The current laws allow just this exact thing. As long as the item in question still holds value to the owner, the owner is allowed to keep it, provided doing so does not cause undo harm to society (which is why drugs have a strict limit). Not allowing people to do whatever they want with Mickey Mouse causes society no harm at all.
Personally, I think the founders would be horrified at the use of the Interstate Commerce clause to force people to engage in interstate commerce so they can be controlled by it and have no problem with people not being allowed to take Mickey Mouse away from Disney.