Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186 (2003)

Page:   Index   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  Next

186

OCTOBER TERM, 2002

Syllabus

ELDRED et al. v. ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the district of columbia circuit

No. 01-618. Argued October 9, 2002—Decided January 15, 2003

The Copyright and Patent Clause, U. S. Const., Art. I, 8, cl. 8, provides as to copyrights: "Congress shall have Power . . . [t]o promote the Progress of Science . . . by securing [to Authors] for limited Times . . . the exclusive Right to their . . . Writings." In the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), Congress enlarged the duration of copyrights by 20 years: Under the 1976 Copyright Act (1976 Act), copyright protection generally lasted from a work's creation until 50 years after the author's death; under the CTEA, most copyrights now run from creation until 70 years after the author's death, 17 U. S. C. 302(a). As in the case of prior copyright extensions, principally in 1831, 1909, and 1976, Congress provided for application of the enlarged terms to existing and future copyrights alike.

Petitioners, whose products or services build on copyrighted works that have gone into the public domain, brought this suit seeking a determination that the CTEA fails constitutional review under both the Copyright Clause's "limited Times" prescription and the First Amend-ment's free speech guarantee. Petitioners do not challenge the CTEA's "life-plus-70-years" timespan itself. They maintain that Congress went awry not with respect to newly created works, but in enlarging the term for published works with existing copyrights. The "limited Tim[e]" in effect when a copyright is secured, petitioners urge, becomes the constitutional boundary, a clear line beyond the power of Congress to extend. As to the First Amendment, petitioners contend that the CTEA is a content-neutral regulation of speech that fails inspection under the heightened judicial scrutiny appropriate for such regulations. The District Court entered judgment on the pleadings for the Attorney General (respondent here), holding that the CTEA does not violate the Copyright Clause's "limited Times" restriction because the CTEA's terms, though longer than the 1976 Act's terms, are still limited, not perpetual, and therefore fit within Congress' discretion. The court also held that there are no First Amendment rights to use the copyrighted works of others. The District of Columbia Circuit affirmed. In that court's unanimous view, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enterprises, 471 U. S. 539, foreclosed petitioners' First Amendment challenge to the CTEA. The appeals court reasoned that copyright does not impermis-

Page:   Index   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007