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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Its primary legal effect is to grant the extended term not to authors, but to their heirs, estates, or corporate successors.

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

The majority believes these conclusions rest upon practical judgments that at most suggest the statute is unwise, not that it is unconstitutional. Legal distinctions, however, are often matters of degree. KnoxU. And in this case the failings of degree are so serious that they amount to failings of constitutional kind.

Although the Copyright Clause grants broad legislative power to Congress, that grant has limits. And in my view this statute falls outside them. Universal City Studios, Inc. And, in assessing this statute for that purpose, I would take into account the fact that the Constitution is a single document, that it contains both a Copyright Clause and a First Amendmentand that the two are related.

Nation EnterprisesU. At the same time, a particular statute that exceeds proper Copyright Clause bounds may set Clause and Amendment at cross-purposes, thereby depriving the public of the speech-related benefits that the Founders, through both, have promised.

United States Olympic Comm. Cleburne Living Center, Inc. DoeU. Thus, I would find that the statute lacks the constitutionally necessary rational support 1 if the significant benefits that it bestows are private, not public; 2 if it threatens seriously to undermine the expressive values that the Copyright Clause embodies; and 3 if it cannot find justification in any significant Clause-related objective.

DavisU. And that is why the copyright term is limited. AbendU. See also Mazer v. And, in elddred so, the Court simply has reiterated the views of the Founders. Madison, like Jefferson and others in the founding generation, warned against the dangers of monopolies.

Dldred, Writings J. Jackson in the First Congress, Feb. Was it not the ecclesiastical corporations and perpetual monopolies of England and V.asucroft Many Members of the Legislative Branch have expressed themselves similarly. By giving authors an incentive to create, v.ashdroft public benefits in two ways: For present purposes, then, we should take the following as well established: Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language 4th rev.

The second means search costs that themselves may prevent reproduction even where the author has no objection. Although these costs are, in a sense, inevitable concomitants of copyright protection, there are special reasons for thinking them especially serious here. Eldre, the present statute primarily benefits the holders of existing copyrights, i. And a Congressional Research Service CRS study prepared for Congress indicates that the added royalty-related sum that the law will transfer to existing copyright holders is large.

CRS Report 8, 12, The extra royalty payments will not come from thin air. Rather, they ultimately come from those who wish to read or see or eldres those classic books or v.wshcroft or recordings that have survived.

See Ganzel, Copyright or Copywrong? Training 36, 42 Dec. Again using CRS estimates, one can estimate that, bythe number v.ashrcoft such works 75 years of age or older will be aboutSee Brief for Petitioners 7. Because the Copyright Act of abolished the requirement that an owner must renew a copyright, such still-in-copyright works of little or no commercial value rldred eventually number in the millions. The permissions requirement can inhibit their ability to accomplish that task.


Indeed, in an age where computer-accessible databases promise to facilitate research and learning, the permissions requirement v.ashhcroft stand as a significant obstacle to realization of that technological hope. The reason is that the permissions requirement can inhibit or prevent the use of old works particularly those without commercial value: And amici, along with petitioners, provide examples of the kinds of significant harm at issue.

The College Art Association says that the costs of obtaining permission for use of single images, short excerpts, and other short works v.ashceoft become prohibitively high; it describes the abandonment of efforts to include, e.

The National Writers Union provides similar examples. Petitioners point to v.ashcrkft fees that may prevent youth or community orchestras, or church choirs, from performing early 20th-century music. Amici for petitioners describe how electronic databases tend to avoid adding to their collections works whose copyright holders may prove difficult to contact, see, e.

As I have said, to some extent costs of this kind accompany any copyright law, regardless of the length of the copyright term. The older the work, the less likely it retains commercial value, and the harder it will likely prove to find the current copyright holder.

The older the work, the more likely it will prove useful to the historian, artist, or teacher. Similarly, the costs of obtaining permission, now perhaps ranging in the millions of dollars, will multiply as the number of holders of affected copyrights increases from several hundred thousand to several million. See supraat 8. The costs to the users of nonprofit databases, now numbering in the low millions, will multiply as the use of those computer-assisted databases becomes more prevalent.

Anteat I should add that the Motion Picture Association of America also finds my concerns overstated, at least with respect to films, because the extension will sometimes make it profitable to reissue old films, saving them from extinction.

They seek to preserve the remainder. And they tell us that copyright extension will impede preservation by forbidding the reproduction of v.ashfroft within their own or within other public collections. Because this subsection concerns only costs, not countervailing benefits, I shall simply note here that, with respect to films as with respect to other works, extension does cause substantial harm to efforts to preserve and to disseminate works that were created long ago.

And I shall turn to the second half of the equation: The extension will not act as an economic spur elxred authors to create new works. See Mazer, U.

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

No potential author can reasonably believe that he has more than a tiny chance of writing a classic that will survive commercially long enough for the copyright extension to matter. See s upraat 7; CRS Report 7 estimating that, even after copyright renewal, about 3.

And any remaining monetary incentive is diminished dramatically by the fact that the relevant royalties will not arrive until 75 years or more into the future, when, not the author, but distant heirs, or shareholders in a successor corporation, will receive them.

Using assumptions about the time value of money provided us by a group of economists including five Nobel prize winnersBrief for George A. See generally Appendix, Part A, infra.


What potential Shakespeare, Wharton, or Hemingway would be moved by such a sum? What monetarily motivated Melville would not realize that he could do better for his grandchildren by putting a few dollars into an interest-bearing bank account? The Court itself finds no evidence to the contrary. But the first of these amounts to no more than a set of undeniably true propositions about the value of incentives in general. And the applicability of the second to this Eldeed is mysterious. The present extension will produce a copyright period of protection that, even under conservative assumptions, is worth more than See Appendix, Part A, infra.

Of course Congress did not intend to act unconstitutionally. Sonny Bono questioning why copyrights should ever expire ; ibid. Why not years? And the statute ended up creating a term so long that were the vesting of 19th-century real property at issue it would typically violate the traditional rule against perpetuities.

Second, the Court relies heavily for justification upon international eldredd of terms. Although it can be helpful to look to international norms and legal experience in understanding American law, cf. Those who claim elldred significant eldrev benefits flow from greater international uniformity of terms point to the fact that the nations of eldrred European Union have adopted a system of copyright terms uniform among themselves.

And the extension before this Court implements a term of life plus 70 years that appears to conform with eldrec European standard. See Appendix, Part B, infra. Neither does the statute create uniformity with respect to anonymous or pseudonymous works. The statute does produce uniformity with respect to copyrights in new, post works attributed to natural persons.

But these works constitute only a subset likely a minority of works that retain commercial value after 75 years. And the fact that uniformity comes so late, if at all, means that bringing American law into conformity with this particular aspect of European law will neither encourage creation nor benefit the long-dead author in any other important way.

What benefit, then, might this partial future uniformity achieve? V.ashdroft for Respondent And the statute, by creating a uniformly longer term, corrects for the disincentive that this disuniformity might otherwise produce. That disincentive, however, could not possibly bring about serious harm of the sort that the Court, the Solicitor General, or the law review author fears.

As we have seen, the present commercial value of any such difference amounts at most to comparative pennies. And a commercial decision that turned upon such a difference would have had to have eldfed previously upon a knife edge so fine as to be invisible. A rational legislature could not give major weight to an invisible, likely nonexistent incentive-related effect. But if there is no incentive-related benefit, what is the benefit of the future uniformity that the statute only partially achieves?

Unlike the Copyright Act ofthis statute does not constitute part of an American effort to conform to an important international treaty like the Berne Convention. Nor does European acceptance of the longer term seem to reflect more than special European institutional considerations, i.

House Hearings statement of the Register of Copyrights ; id. Is an American Marriage Possible?

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