scotus upholds copyright extension
Supreme Court Upholds Longer Copyrights
The Supreme Court today decided a landmark copyright case in favor of artists, writers and the entertainment industry, upholding a 1998 federal law that extended the life of copyrights by 20 years.
A loose coalition of independent scholars, publishers and Internet archivists had argued that, by lengthening existing copyrights, the law, known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in honor of the late singer-congressman, effectively made those copyrights perpetual--in violation of the constitutional provision that says Congress may spur intellectual productivity by granting copyrights for "limited times."
But by a vote of 7-2, the court held that Congress enjoys essentially unfettered power to determine the length of copyrights, as long as they are for some specified period. Congress had a number of good reasons to pass the Bono Act, including encouraging more creative activity and harmonizing U.S. and European intellectual property law, the court said, and it is not up to the judiciary to second-guess such policy judgments.
I've always opposed the provisions of the Copyright Term Extension Act; its passage amounted to depriving US citizens of material that would have been in the public domain to the benifit of parties that either have little to do with a work's creation, or would have enjoyed decades of opportunity to profit from it. However, the SCOTUS decision is correct--the Constitution gives Congress to make these decisions. The proper venue for fighting this reprehensible legislation is not through the courts but in Congress. Congresscritters should be encouraged to repeal this law, and those responsible for its passage should have the fact that they place corporate interest above the public interest trumpeted far and wide.
Update: Matthew Yglesias agrees: "It's pretty clear that the law in question was terrible public policy, but the lawsuit on the subject strikes me as an excellent example of a good policy initiative casting about for a legal rationale."