Writing as Schumpeter, The Economist
speculates on how far to push the idea that companies have the same rights as real people (Paywall workaround: enter the link in Google) link here
. That started me off, speculating on civil rights for companies and trade unions as court imputed rights notably lacking grounding in the constitution or in common sense. Who dreamed up the idea that companies are persons? That got me to thinking about how intellectual property in general is anchored in the constitution but it too has no physical dimensions; I can't see it or pick it up or lock it up. Therefore, intellectual property is a legal construct or attribute, also lacking in common sense.
One notable difference results; the civil rights of persons have a grounding in the constitution to the extent that personhood is clearly defined there. But it is not. A major further consequence is that personhood gets defined by the courts, hopefully applying common sense but with no guarantees.
In contrast, the constitution allows the Congress "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." No room for the courts in that until someone's rights are violated and he shows he has a substantial interest sufficient to satisfy the courts and they agree to hearing the case. Thus, changing the law pretty much requires getting the Congress to act.
Schumpeter has a lot of other interesting things to say, so read the article.
Among them is a defense of the personhood of corporations which struck me as way over the top. But it is thought-provoking.
[Posted at 04/11/2011 12:08 PM by John Bennett on Intellectual Property comments(6)]
In 18th Century Overture
I question the popular interpretation of The Constitution as empowering Congress to grant copyright.
Being immortal, and often extremely powerful, corporations outclass human beings when it comes to lobbying and they won't be shy to perpetuate Constitutional interpretations that argue for both their continued existence, superiority (let alone equality) to human beings, and entitlement to monopolies (and other privileges they'd inveigle as rights).
Also see Not Being Human.
The Corporation is out of mortal control. You should recognise its contempt for the biosphere as evidenced by the Deepwater Horizon fiasco. It's only profit that influences the risks it takes, not the health of the planet and life upon it.
[Comment at 04/11/2011 12:46 PM by Crosbie Fitch]
I think the link in your posting (to the Economist article) is broken.
[Comment at 04/11/2011 01:17 PM by Ron]
The Economist link is broken, pls repair.
[Comment at 04/11/2011 02:55 PM by Peter]
The link works now.
[Comment at 04/11/2011 06:12 PM by John Bennett]
"In 18th Century Overture I question the popular interpretation of The Constitution as empowering Congress to grant copyright."
You can challenge all you like. The Supreme Court has already ruled on this issue and said that the Constitution does empower Congress to grant copyright.
There are only two options. Either a court case questioning the validity of this opinion must be heard by the court, which seems unlikely since they have already ruled on this issue, or the constitution has to be amended to clarify that congress is not permitted to grant copyright. Somehow, I doubt congress is even vaguely interested in taking up the issue.
The Supreme Court has also addressed the issue of whether the copyright clause is a violation of the first amendment and found that it does not because copyright only protects a particular embodiment of an idea and not the idea itself.
[Comment at 04/13/2011 09:11 PM by Anonymous]
Anon, of course the US government (Congress+Supreme Court+lobbyists) isn't interested in questioning copyright's assumed constitutional sanction, nor is it thus interested in recognising that annulling the right to copy or speak another's words abridges the individual's liberty.
I also doubt it's interested in questioning the wisdom of recognising corporations as equivalent to human beings.
However, it seems The People are becoming ever more interested in these corruptions.
Don't forget that the power provided to the government by the Constitution comes from The People.
So it is The People who are interested to know why copyright is in apparent conflict with their liberty.
Eventually, we'll realise that you can't have both the right to liberty and the privilege of derogating from it. One of them is not like the other. One of them couldn't be recognised, but had to be granted - unconstitutionally.
[Comment at 04/14/2011 03:41 AM by Crosbie Fitch]