U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Copyright Extension

Posted on January 17, 2003

In a 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), which extended copyrights by 20 years. The Supreme Court stated that, "Congress sought to ensure that American authors would receive the same copyright protection in Europe as their European counterparts." The Court ruled that copyright extension was neither unconstitutional nor a violation of the first amendment rights of free speech.

The 1998 CTEA extended copyrights for original works to the life of the author/originator plus 70 years. The law was challenged by a group of web publishers and individuals who argued that the CTEA limited free speech and locked copyrighted material away from the public.

The International Coalition for Copyright Protection (ICCP), a group of authors, artists, illustrators and songwriters, hailed the United States Supreme Court decision, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, upholding as fully constitutional the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) and its copyright protections. The group said the high Court ruling will help bolster the lackluster U.S. economy and the nation's embattled balance of trade in the world marketplace. Members of the ICCP include international bestselling authors Neil Gaiman, Kevin J. Anderson, Gregory Benford and Algis Budrys and illustrators Frank Kelly Freas, Frank Frazetta, Ed Cartier and Vincent DiFate, among others.

Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) President and CEO Gary Shapiro disagreed with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling and issued the following statement, "We are disappointed the Court has decided to uphold the Constitutionality of the extension of copyrights. With this ruling, copyrights are now protected for up to a century. The Constitutional mandate that copyright terms be restricted to 'limited terms' becomes almost meaningless as Congress yielded to Hollywood's extension request. Certainly, creative work must be encouraged and original ideas protected. But this idea must be balanced with the need -- and right -- to promote broad public access to copyrighted works and to allow for technological innovation."