Eldred v. Ashcroft

537 U.S. 186 (2003)


In 1998, Congress enlarged the duration of copyrights by 20 years by the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA). Congress provided for application of the enlarged terms to existing and future copyrights alike. Under the CTEA, most copyrights now run from creation until 70 years after the author's death. Ps are individuals and businesses whose products or services build on copyrighted works that have gone into the public domain. Ps contend Congress went awry, not with respect to newly created works, but in enlarging the term for published works with existing copyrights. The 'limited Time' in effect when a copyright is secured, Ps urge, becomes the constitutional boundary, a clear line beyond the power of Congress to extend. The District Court entered judgment for D and held that CTEA does not violate the 'limited Times' restriction of the Copyright Clause because the CTEA's terms, though longer than the 1976 Act's terms are still limited, not perpetual, and therefore fit within Congress' discretion. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.