One of the most important parts of the Constitution is one of the least recognized. While American’s appreciate the importance of free speech and free elections, few realize that America may well have become the world’s unmatched economic superpower because the Founders wisely authorized Congress to protect intellectual property rights. This, in turn, provided the incentive to innovate and create.
Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution authorizes 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….” With this under-appreciated constitutional provision, the Founders made the U.S. the engine of innovation that drove technological, economic, and medical advances for the entire world.
The Founder’s understood that by incentivizing innovation and creativity, you get more of it. But to do that, you must have a system that allows those who create and innovate to profit from their creations and innovations. If competitors are allowed to effectively steal the plans for the iPhone and manufacture and sell it, Apple would have no incentive to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in future breakthrough technologies –– knowing they would spend millions so that someone else could steal it and profit from it. Likewise, if others are allowed to steal, copy and distribute the latest hit movie, movie makers have little incentive to invest millions in the next great movie.
Whether it is the development of new miracle drugs that cure deadly diseases, or blockbuster movies that entertain and inspire millions, or new super fast computer chips that power devices that enrich our lives, America is the engine of innovation and creativity that powers not only our economy, but powers the world’s economic advances. All of this was made possible because the Founders had the foresight to enshrine in the Constitution the idea that intellectual property rights matter to all of us and can be an engine for economic growth and progress which benefits all of us.
Today, a significant part of our economy is focused on content. We have computers, tablets and phones that bring us the content we choose. The market place is innovating at a tremendous pace. Just a few years ago, consumers bought movies at brick and mortar stores. Today, there are more than 90 legitimate streaming services offering movies, and TV programming in the U.S. These technologies allow consumers to watch what they want, when they want, and where they want.
Copyright law is driving innovation not only in content, but throughout the digital economy. By recognizing the creator’s property rights, copyright and patent law promotes investment in future programming, content and technology. Strong copyright law guarantees that future content will be available and it spurs investment in services, devices, and applications to deliver and view content.
But to continue that innovation and to see it leap forward in the future, we must protect the intellectual property rights of those who create and innovate. It would make no sense to invest billions on new content or new technology if others can simply steal it.
Those of us who are consumers of content should want the content creators to profit –– because if the law fails to incentivize creativity, there will be little new content in the future. Whether it is the advances that will make the phone or tablet better and more powerful or the creativity to bring new music, books and movies to market, we all have a vested interest in a system that creates the incentives that powers innovation and our economy.
But new government regulation of technology will not drive new advances. Instead, it will slow or stop innovation. Government regulators cannot possibly predict which technologies will most effectively meet the needs of consumers. What government should do is what the Founders did –– insure that our laws protect intellectual property rights and incentivize innovation and creativity, but otherwise allow the marketplace to determine what innovations are best.
Within a competitive marketplace, those who create content, distribute it and consume it, can best decide what works best and what business model is most promising. All we need Congress to do is fulfill the vision of the Founders –– promoting innovation and creation by effectively protecting the intellectual property rights of the innovators and the creators.