No Really--Intellectual Property Isn't Property At All

One of the most common misperceptions regarding intellectual property law is the idea that the constitutional provision and the statutory law grant a property right in intellectual products. This misperception may be derived and perpetuated from the term, "intellectual property," but as Jim Porter pointed out at the 1998 CCCC Intellectual Property Caucus in Chicago, neither the constitutional provision nor the statutory law dealing with intellectual products uses the term "property" or defines intellectual work as property. On the contrary, the law is regulatory in nature.

The intellectual property provision of the Constitution provides a limited monopoly in authors and creators for the use and control of their work. Their exclusive access is limited by the fair use statute, which allows public access in order to support free speech and to advance learning. In addition, their exclusive control is limited in duration, currently to the life of the author plus 50 years after death for individual authors, and to 75 years after publication of the work for corporate authors.