Copyrights

Art. I, Section 8

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts,
 by securing for limited Times
 to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries...

THE COPYRIGHT & PATENT POWER
...To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries...

In 2003, the Supreme Court decided Eldred v Ashcroft, which provided the Court its first opportunity to interpret the power of Congress under Article I to extend copyright protection to authors "for limited times."  Eldred operated a website that offered for sale works for which copyright protection had expired (or "fallen into the public domain").  He challenged the constitutionality of the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998--sometimes called the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act" because Disney had lobbied hard for extension of its copyright protection for Mickey Mouse, which was nearing the end of its 75-year term of protection under existing copyright law.  Simply put, the argument of Eldred and his many supporters (including librarians and academics who argue that creativity will benefit from allowing use of expired works) was that "limited times" doesn't mean "forever"--and that 75 years of protection is more than enough time to provide an adequate financial incentive for authors.  Eldred noted that Congress's first copyright act offered only seventeen years of protection.  By a vote of 7 to 2, the Court ruled in Eldred that Congress did not exceed its power under the Copyright Clause.

 

The power to protect original works of authorship: 
Eldred vs Ashcroft (2003) and other legal documents are accessible from: Harvard's Open Law 

Eric Eldred, plaintiff in suit challenging the constitutionality of the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act 

 

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