In a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the 1998 law extending copyright protection by 20 years:
- a victory for supporters of the law, including large media companies and song publishers that argued the longer term was needed to protect a vital industry that contributes more than $500 billion to the U.S. economy.
It dealt a defeat to an Internet publisher and others who challenged the law for limiting free speech and for harming the creative process by locking up material that they said should be in the public domain for all to use without charge.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said for the court majority that the U.S. Congress in adopting the law acted within its authority and did not exceed constitutional limits. She also said the law does not violate constitutional free-speech protections.
The law’s opponents argued the copyright law’s extension closed off the Internet to a broad part of common culture at a time when the Internet allows more people to draw upon creative works without restraint.
At issue in the ruling was the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which extended the exclusive period that artists and corporations can control their creative works by 20 years.
….Ginsburg said Congress had wide leeway in deciding how long copyright protection should last. She said lawmakers had taken into consideration the European Union copyright term and “relevant demographic, economic and technological changes.”
In summarizing the ruling from the bench, Ginsburg said the court was satisfied that Congress acted rationally. She said the copyright scheme incorporates its own safeguards protecting free speech.
Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer dissented. [Reuters]
Unfortunate but not unexpected – the ruling was really whether Congress had the right to extend copyright, not whether the law was a good or bad idea (Justice Ginsberg writes: “In sum, we find that the CTEA is a rational enactment; we are not at liberty to second-guess congressional determinations and policy judgments of this order, however debatable or arguably unwise they may be.”).
Links to decision and more via LawMeme.
ScotusBlog further elucidates here.
The National Music Publishers’ Association gloats and preens about the decision here:
- NEW YORK, NY, January 15, 2003
The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) applauds today’s ruling by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Eldred vs. Ashcroft. The ruling upholds the constitutionality of the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA).
The CTEA extended the term of protection for existing and future copyrights alike, ensuring that American songwriters and their publishers would receive copyright protection in parity with their European counterparts, and providing them with fair compensation for themselves and their heirs as an incentive to create new works and disseminate old works.
“This is a ringing endorsement by the nation’s highest court of the important principle that copyright protection supports creativity and free expression,” said Edward P. Murphy, President & CEO of NMPA. “Congress had the foresight in enacting the CTEA to extend that principle into the 21st Century, assuring that the United States would continue its leadership role in the creation and dissemination of musical works. Now, in upholding that law, the Supreme Court has reaffirmed that copyright is ‘the engine of free expression,’ supplying the economic incentive to create and disseminate ideas.'”
In a 7-to-2 decision, the Supreme Court held that the CTEA’s extension of copyright terms in existing works was within Congress’ power under the Copyright Clause of the Constitution. In addition, the Court found that the CTEA’s extension of both existing and future copyright terms was in full harmony with the First Amendment.
NMPA appeared before the Supreme Court in the Eldred case, filing a brief as amicus curiae (“friend of the Court”) together with ASCAP, the Association of Independent Music Publishers, BMI, the Church Music Publishers Association, and the Music Publishers’ Association of the United States, supporting the constitutionality of the CTEA.