Disregard for the social value of a modern Republic of Letters like that so revered by Madison and Jefferson is a conspicuous hallmark of the Supreme Court's recent copyright case law. The four decisions in which the Court has issued full opinions since 2001 (New York Times Co. v. Tasini (2001), Eldred v. Ashcroft (2003), MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd. (2005), and Reed Elsevier, Inc. v. Muchnick (2010)) indicate that a majority of the Court does not share with Jefferson and Madison a belief in the civic importance of protecting widespread public access to creative works and knowledge. In these recent copyright decisions, the Court has either ignored this value or has weighed it as less important than ensuring financial rewards for authors.

Part II shows how the writings of Jefferson and Madison on the dissemination of knowledge and the Copyright Clause reveal how highly both men valued the ideal of public access to knowledge and creative works as a bulwark of republican government. Part III points out that the Court's copyright decisions over the past decade have not shared Madison and Jefferson's solicitude for the value of public access to knowledge and the Republic of Letters. Part IV concludes by warning that the Court's disregard for the public interest in the dissemination of knowledge and creative works risks eroding respect for the rule of law.