Case opinion for US Supreme Court ELDRED v. ASHCROFT. Read the Court’s full decision on FindLaw. ELDRED V. ASHCROFT () U.S. () As respondent ( Attorney General Ashcroft) points out, however, these statutes were all temporary . ELDRED V. ASHCROFT () U.S. () F.3d , affirmed. Syllabus, Opinion [ Ginsburg ], Dissent [ Stevens ], Dissent [ Breyer ].

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The Copyright and Patent Clause, U. V.ascroft the Copyright Act Actcopyright 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. As in the case of prior copyright extensions, v.adhcroft in, andCongress 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 Amendment’s free speech guarantee. Petitioners do not challenge the CTEA’s “life-plusyears” timespan itself. They maintain v.ashcfoft 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 Ledred Court entered judgment on the pleadings for the Attorney General respondent hereholding that the CTEA does not violate the Copyright Clause’s “limited Times” restriction because the CTEA’s terms, though longer than the Elered 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 v.zshcroft works of others. The District of Columbia Circuit affirmed. Nation Enterprises, U.

The appeals court reasoned that copyright does not impermis. A majority of the court also rejected petitioners’ Copyright Clause claim. The court ruled that Circuit precedent precluded petitioners’ plea for interpretation elddred the “limited Times” prescription with a view to the Clause’s preambular statement of purpose:.

As early as McClurg v. The court added that this Court has been similarly deferential to V.qshcroft judgment regarding copyright. Universal City Studios, Inc. Concerning petitioners’ assertion that Congress could evade the limitation on its authority by stringing together an unlimited number of “limited Times,” the court stated that such legislative misbehavior clearly was not before it. Rather, the eldredd emphasized, the CTEA matched the baseline term for United States copyrights with the European Union term in order to meet contemporary circumstances.

V.asucroft placing existing and future copyrights in parity in the CTEA, Congress acted within its authority and did not transgress constitutionallimitations. Although conceding that the CTEA’s baseline term of life plus 70 v.ashcrofh qualifies as a “limited Tim[e]” as applied to future copyrights, petitioners contend that existing copyrights extended to endure for that same term are not “limited.

At the time of the Framing, “limited” meant what it means today: Thus understood, a timespan appropriately “limited”. To comprehend the scope of Congress’ Copyright Clause power, “a page of history is worth a volume of logic. History reveals an unbroken congressional practice of granting to authors of works with existing copyrights the benefit of term extensions so that all under copyright protection will be governed evenhandedly under the same regime.

Moreover, because the Eeldred empowering Congress to confer copyrights also authorizes patents, the Court’s inquiry is significantly informed by the fact that early Congresses extended the duration of numerous individual patents as well as copyrights. Lower courts saw no “limited Times” impediment to such extensions. Further, although this Court never before eldref had occasion to decide whether extending existing copyrights complies with the “limited Times” prescription, the Court has found no constitutional barrier to the legislative expansion of existing patents.


Congress’ consistent historical practice reflects a judgment that an author who sold his work a week before should not be placed in a worse situation than the author who sold e,dred work the day after enactment of a copyright extension. The CTEA follows this historical practice by keeping the Act’s duration provisions largely in place and simply adding 20 years to each of them.

On this point, the Court defers substantially to Congress.

The CTEA reflects judgments of a kind Congress typically makes, judgments v.asbcroft Court cannot dismiss as outside the Legislature’s eldeed. A key factor in the CTEA’s passage was a European Union EU directive instructing EU members to establish a baseline copyright term of life plus 70 years and to deny this longer term to the works of any non-EU country whose laws did not secure the same extended term.

By extending the baseline United States copyright term, Congress sought to ensure that American authors would v.ashcrof the same copyright protection in Europe as their European counterparts. Additionally, Congress passed the CTEA in light of demographic, economic, and technological changes, and rationally credited projections that longer terms would encourage copyright holders to invest in the restoration and public distribution of their works.

Critically, petitioners fail to show how the CTEA crosses a constitutionally eldrev threshold with respect to “limited Times” that the, and Acts did not. The first such contention, that the CTEA’s extension of existing sldred overlooks the requirement of “originality,” incorrectly relies on Feist Publications, Inc.

Rural Telephone Service Co. That case did not touch on the duration of copyright protection. Rather, it addressed only the core question of copyright ability. Explaining the originality requirement, Feist trained on the Copyright Clause words “Authors” and “Writings,” id. Also unavailing is petitioners’ second argument, that the CTEA’s extension of existing copyrights fails to “promote the Progress of Science” because it does not stimulate the creation of new works, but merely adds value to works already created.

Also rejected is petitioners’ third contention, that the CTEA’s extension of existing copyrights without demanding additional consideration ignores copyright’s quid pro quo, v.ashcrft Congress grants the author of an original work an “exclusive Right” for a “limited Tim[e]” in exchange for a dedication to the public thereafter. V.ashroft Congress’ consistent placement of existing copyright holders in parity with future holders, the author of a work created in the last years would reasonably comprehend, as the protection offered her, a copyright not only for the time in place when protection is gained, but also for any renewal or extension legislated during that time.

Thunder Craft Boats, Inc. Furthermore, given crucial distinctions between patents and copyrights, one cannot extract v.ashctoft language in the Court’s patent decisions-language not trained on a ledred duration-genuine support for petitioners’ quid pro quo argument. Patents and copyrights do not entail the same exchange, since immediate disclosure is not the objective of, but is exacted from, the patentee, whereas disclosure is the desired objective of the author seeking copyright protection.

Eldred v. Ashcroft :: U.S. () :: Justia US Supreme Court Center

Moreover, while copyright gives the holder no monopoly on any knowledge, fact, or idea, the grant of a patent prevents full use by others of the inventor’s knowledge. It does not hold sway for judicial review of legislation enacted, as copyright laws are, pursuant to Article I authorization. Section 5 authorizes Congress to “enforce” commands contained in and incorporated into the Fourteenth Amendment. The Copyright Clause, in contrast, empowers Congress to define the scope of the substantive right.


See Sony, U. Judicial deference to such congressional definition is “but a corollary to the grant to Congress of any Article I power. It would be no more appropriate for this Court to subject the CTEA to “congruence and proportionality” review than it would be to hold the Act unconstitutional per se.

That Amendment and the Copyright Clause were adopted close in time. This proximity indicates the Framers’ view that copyright’s limited monopolies are compatible with free speech principles. In addition, copyright law contains built-in First Amendment accommodations.

The first allows libraries and similar institutions to reproduce and distribute copies of certain published works for scholarly purposes during the last 20 years of any copyright. Finally, petitioners’ reliance on Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Turner Broadcasting involved a statute requiring cable television operators to carry and transmit broadcast stations through their proprietary cable systems.

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

The CTEA, in contrast, does not oblige anyone to reproduce another’s speech against the carrier’s will. Instead, it protects authors’ original expression from unrestricted exploitation. The First Amendment securely protects the freedom to make–or decline to make–one’s own speech; it bears less heavily when speakers assert the right to eldded other people’s speeches.

When, as in this case, Congress has not altered the traditional contours of copyright protection, further First Amendment scrutiny is unnecessary. Lawrence Lessig argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs were Elrded M. Nesson, and Jonathan L. Lamken, William Kanter, and John S. Lutzker and Carl H. Cunard and Bruce P.

This case concerns the authority the Constitution assigns to Congress ekdred prescribe the duration of copyrights. Brinkmann, and Paul Goldstein; for Amsong, Inc. Cordray, Daryl Joseffer, Paul T. Sims and Jon A.

Baumgarten; for the Bureau of National Mfairs, Inc. Klipper; for the Directors Guild of America et al. Kay, and Herbert B. Ossola and Ronald E. Fred Koenigsberg and Gaela K. Gehring Flores; for Senator Orrin G. Hatch by Thomas R. Lee; for Edward Samuels, pro se; and for Representative F.

Eldree for George A. Ochoa; and for Malla Pollack, pro se. As in the case of prior extensions, principally in, andCongress provided for application of the enlarged terms to existing and future copyrights alike. Petitioners are individuals and businesses whose products or services build on copyrighted works that have gone into the public domain. They seek a determination that the CTEA fails constitutional review under both the Copyright Clause’s “limited Times” prescription and the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee.

Under the Copyright Act, copyright protection generally lasted from the 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. Petitioners do not challenge the “life-plusyears” timespan itself. As to the First Amendment, petitioners contend that the CTEA is a content-neutral regulation of speech that fails inspection.

He makes no effort meaningfully to distinguish existing copyrights from future grants. Under his reasoning, the CTEA’s year extension is globally unconstitutional. In that legislation, as in all previous copyright term extensions, Congress placed existing and future copyrights in parity.

In prescribing that alignment, we hold, Congress acted within its authority and did not transgress constitutional limitations. We evaluate petitioners’ challenge to the constitutionality of the CTEA against the backdrop of Congress’ previous exercises of its authority under the Copyright Clause. The Nation’s first copyright statute, enacted inprovided a federal copyright term of 14 years from the date of publication, renewable for an additional 14 years if the author survived the first term.

Act of May 31,ch.