Intellectual Property and First Principles

Hosted by The Federalist Society's Intellectual Property Practice Group and The Cato Institute's Center for Constitutional Studies

Conservatives and libertarians are sometimes divided on the question of whether intellectual property is really property, and how much protection it deserves. On one hand, intellectual property is a product of mixing labor with material in the public domain, and it’s freely alienable, able to be bought, sold, licensed, or used as the owner sees fit. On this view, intellectual property is a bedrock natural right, central to economic and personal freedom, which the United States Constitution empowers Congress to protect. The contrary position, taken by some libertarians, views intellectual property as a government-conferred right that encourages political rent-seeking, restricts liberty, and thwarts innovation. Please join us as our panel of experts debates who has the better of the argument.


  • Mr. Eli Dourado, Director, Technology Policy Program, Mercatus Center, George Mason University
  • Prof. Richard A. Epstein, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University Law School
  • Mr. Jim Harper, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute
  • Mr. Randolph J. May, President, The Free State Foundation and Co-Author, The Constitutional Foundations of Intellectual Property
  • Moderator: Dr. Roger Pilon, Director, Center for Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute

To register, visit by 11:00 a.m., Tuesday, February 9, 2016.