Some people are suggesting that Congress has the power to abolish patents and copyrights in the United States. The argument is that Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution states “The Congress shall have Power To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writing and Discoveries” and whether they exercise this power is optional.
This interpretation relies on the idea that when Congress is granted a Power it is unlimited. The United States was founded on the idea that Government power is not unlimited like the Devine Right of Kings. The United States was founded on the idea that powers of government are limited and come with duties, while Rights of citizens are unlimited and do not come with duties. I know this will come as a shock to those people raised on the modern liberal interpretation, which wants unlimited powers for government and sees the Bill of Rights as a list of negative rights – see Barack Obama. Congress, under Article 1, Section 8 also has the power to set “an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States.” This is not optional on the part of Congress, with the power comes the duty to establish these rules.
The interpretation of the Constitution that suggests Congress has the option to establish systems to protect inventors’ and authors’ rights is totally inconsistent with the history of the Constitution. The purpose of the Constitution was to set out the powers of the federal government. Article 1, Section 8 lists the powers but also the responsibilities of Congress. For instance, even the power to declare war comes with the responsibility to do so when the U.S. is under attack from foreign powers.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,
It is well known that the unalienable Rights of the Declaration of Independence are the Natural Rights of Locke – Life, Liberty, and Property. Many people believe that Jefferson changed property to the pursuit of happiness because he was worried it would be interpreted as endorsing slavery. When the Founders used the word “right” they meant natural rights. The purpose of government is to secure these rights. When the Constitution states that inventors and authors have “Rights” in their creations, they mean natural rights and they understood that the purpose of governments was to secure these rights. This means that Congress has a duty to secure the rights of inventors and authors under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8. If the words patent and copyright are meant as rights in inventions and writing, then it is clear Congress does not have the option of eliminating them. It is also clear that patents and copyrights are not limited by the preamble. Natural rights are not utilitarian, but are endowed on men by their Creator.
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