Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 June 2021
In this chapter, I argue that the formation of intellectual property was enabled by a cultural transformation, involving the embrace of natural legality, a transformation that parallels, in significant respects, the Christianization of imperial Rome. In this cultural transformation, traditions of Roman law were rediscovered as a naturalistic foundation for sociability and national economic life. The commodification of human creativity and inventive discovery, through intellectual property rights, made sense, within the culture of natural legality, as a justified response to natural, but extraordinary, powers of human creativity, and became part of a broader strategy for national empowerment. The combination of Roman law with interpretations of Christian obligation that emphasized natural sociability and legality gave new form to a natural rights tradition, one that providing legitimating foundations for the recognition of intellectual property under principles of English common law. The chapter concludes with a focus on the U.S. constitutional convention of 1787, and the embrace of intellectual property as part of the constitutional framework for a powerful, national state.