Magazine article American Libraries

Supreme Court Hears Challenge to Copyright Extension Act. (News Fronts Washington)

Magazine article American Libraries

Supreme Court Hears Challenge to Copyright Extension Act. (News Fronts Washington)

Article excerpt

The Supreme Court heard arguments October 9 in a challenge to the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act, which lengthened the life-plus-50-year copyright term by 20 years (AL, Apr., p. 19).

Reports on the session indicated that while the justices seemed critical of the law, they voiced skepticism over whether they could do anything about it. Professor Lawrence Lessig of Stanford Law School argued that repeated extensions of copyright terms violate the Constitution's clause authorizing Congress to issue copyrights for "limited times," the New York Times reported October 10. Additionally, he maintained, extending existing copyrights fails to promote creativity as the Constitution calls for.

"I can find a lot of fault with what Congress did here," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor told Lessig, but she added that "it's very difficult to find the basis in the Constitution for saying" that legislators don't have the right to determine the limit even if "it's longer than one might think desirable."

Noting that Congress had granted numerous copyright extensions over the years, Justice Stephen G. Breyer asked whether the current challenge questioned the validity of the major rewriting of copyright law that occurred in 1976. …

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