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Eldred v. Ashcroft

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Brief Fact Summary.

Congress extended the authorized term of a copy right to the author’s lifetime plus seventy years. Plaintiffs contend that the Congressional statute violates existing law, which requires a stronger limitation for the length of copyrights.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Congress is not barred form extending the terms of an existing copyright even if the Copyright Clause indicates that copyrights are to be granted for a limited time. 

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

The authoritative source for finding the Legislature's intent lies in the Committee Reports on the bill, which represent the considered and collective understanding of those Congressmen involved in drafting and studying proposed legislation.

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Facts.

Under the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), Congress extended the term for existing future and existing copyrights to the author’s lifetime plus seventy years. Plaintiff contends that the law violates the Copyright Clause because the Copyright Clause solely allows Congress to implement copyrights for a limited term. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari. 

Issue.

Whether the CTEA is a violation of the Copyright Clause when the CTEA extends the time period for a copyright.

 

Held.

No, the CTEA is not a violation of the Copyright Clause when the CTEA extends the time period for a copyright

Dissent.

The CTEA is unconstitutional because it extends the terms of already existing copyrights, restricting expression and eliminating future artistic creativity by new authors. 

Discussion.

Congress is not barred form extending the terms of an existing copyright even if the Copyright Clause indicates that copyrights are to be granted for a limited time. The “limited time” period required under the Copyright Clause does not imply that the term for a copyright must be fixed and unchangeable from the time the copyright is executed. Instead, the terms of an existing copyright may be altered to be equivalent to future copyrights. The court held that CTEA is rational, and the CTEA is affirmed.


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