Eldred v. Ashcroft
formerly Eldred v. Reno
Copyright case challenging the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act on behalf of various organizations which rely on the public domain. Eldred, owner of the Eldritch Press, is the lead plaintiff. The case is being argued by Lawrence Lessig. Decisions against the plaintiff have been handed down at every level, but the Supreme Court decided to take the case.
On October 9, 2002 oral arguments were presented at the Supreme Court.
The Eldred argument hinges upon the Court viewing the Copyright Clause of the Constitution as they view the Commerce Clause (since Lopez)--that the Constitution gives Congress enumerated powers, and interpretations of the Constitution that give Congress unlimited power must be incorrect (the basic federalism argument). In Lopez, the Court said that "commerce" must be defined such that limits can be drawn; Lessig's hope is that they will similarly recognize that the copyright clause, which explicitly mentions limits, must be so interpreted. The government's argument is that Congress may interpret the limits solely at its discretion, the same argument the Court found lacking in Lopez.
On January 15, 2003 the Supreme Court issued a 7-2 decision against the plaintiffs, upholding Congress's "wide leeway" to set limited times for past, present, and future copyright holders.
- from the front line: Lawrence Lessig presents his own thoughts on the oral argument and the entire thrust of the case
- "High Court Debates Copyright Extension Case", Washington Post
- "Eldred v. Ashcroft: A Primer" from the Washington Post includes reactions from the president of the American Library Association and from Jack Valenti
- extensive notes from the courtroom from MIT Media Lab graduate Kwin Kramer
- analysis of the oral arguments by Erik Jaffe for SCOTUSBlog
- Live from Eldred v. Ashcroft from LawMeme provides opinion on how the oral arguments went
- Photos from Supreme Court arguments in copyright extension case by Declan McCullagh
- "Glitterati vs. Geeks", Steven Levy, Newsweek, October 14, 2002, provides background primarily from the Lessig perspective
- "Copyright and the Commons", October 9, 2002, from Matthew Haughey promotes the Creative Commons
- "Riding along with the Internet Bookmobile", Salon.com, October 9, 2002, profiles Brewster Kahle and the Internet Bookmobile
- "Do we really need to have copyright?", Philadelphia Inquirer, October 9, 2002
- "Mickey Mouse vs. The People", Salon.com, February 21, 2002 - interview with plaintiffs Eric Eldred and Laura Bjorklund