My brief remarks at CPAC were based on my decade-plus research on the natural rights justification for patents and other IP rights (see here, here, here, here, and here), and on how this theory was applied in the uniquely American approach to securing patents as property rights (see here, here, and here). To take but one example of this American approach, a Supreme Court Justice said in 1845 that “we protect intellectual property, the labors of the mind, . . . as much a man’s own, and as much the fruit of his honest industry, as the wheat he cultivates, or the flocks he rears.”
On the basis of this classic moral justification for all property rights — that people should have the fruits of their productive labors secured to them as their property — early American legislators and judges secured stable and effective property rights to innovators and creators.
This was part-and-parcel of American exceptionalism. The U.S. was the first country to protect true property rights in inventions and creative works. It was also the first country to recognize patents and copyrights in its Constitution, and to provide for their protection.
As the Founding Father James Madison wrote in 1792, the right to property “embraces every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right,” and “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort.” As Madison and most early American judges recognized, the natural right to property was never limited—as Mr. Holt claims—to only physical land and other tangible goods. Even John Locke recognized in 1695 that copyright is property (see here).