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  Eldred v. Ashcroft

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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.

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