I observed in “Legislation and Law in a Free Society” various problems with using legislation to “make” law. For one thing, it requires a legislature, which requires a state. For another, it conceives of law as being “made” by human will rather than natural principles “found” by people seeking justice. One problem with IP law–mainly patent and copyright, but also trade secret and trademark, to varying degrees–is that it requires modern state legislation. It cannot be created without it.
I was working on lecture #4 for my Mises Academy course “Rethinking Intellectual Property: History, Theory, and Economics,” and was compiling some of the key statutes, treaties, international bodies, and pending legislation and treaties that undergird modern patent, copyright, and other types of IP law. Just seeing it all in one place is striking; it cannot fail to make the libertarian advocate of IP a bit queasy, one would think.
I list some below with minimal commentary, and links.
Key IP Statutes and Treaties
- 1624: Statute of Monopolies 1623 (England): key patent statute
- 1710: Statute of Anne 1709 (England): key copyright statute
- 1691: South Carolina enacts first “general” patent law (as distinguished from authorization to the Crown to make patent grants)
Modern IP (US)
Modern IP Additions (US)
- No Electronic Theft Act(NET Act) (1997)
- criminal prosecution for copyright infringement;
- up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines
- Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act(CTEA) (1998)
- AKA Sonny Bono Act, or “Mickey Mouse Protection Act”
- Extended copyright term by 20 years (life of author plus 70 years, or 95/120)
- Digital Millennium Copyright Act(DMCA) (1998)
- criminalizes use of anti-DRM-circumvention technology
- Key “safe harbor” for OSPs and ISPs for copyright liability
- DMCA added “Vessel Hull Design Protection Act”–protection for boat hull designs
- Trademark: Antidilution
- Trade Secret
Major International Bodies
Pending IP Laws and Treaties