Re: Jefferson on IP as goods

On Wed, 15 Jan 1997, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

> [...] but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the
> possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it.

Yep, information as virus. Read Neal Stepenson's _Snow Crash_ for an
extreme example of this.

> 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. 

Software seems to be a perfect example of this; the incremental cost of
producing products is no longer relevant because you need only a single
copy and an ftp site. 

> Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.

But we're not exactly in a state of nature, either. And do "inventions" =
"ideas"?  If not, how does TJ move from an abstract concept (idea) to a
concrete object (invention)?  Surely, the great American Patriot Jefferson
was not a closet socialist, arguing against all property rights...?


   W. John MacMullen............................http://ils.unc.edu/~macmw

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