U.S. Supreme Court
Intellectual Property – Copyright — constitutionality
Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA) does not exceed Congress’ authority under the Copyright Clause.
The text of the Copyright Clause does not exclude application of copyright protection to works in the public domain. Eldred is largely dispositive of petitioners’ claim that the Clause’s confinement of a copyright’s lifespan to a “limited Tim[e]” prevents the removal of works from the public domain. In Eldred, the Court upheld the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), which extended, by 20 years, the terms of existing copyrights. The text of the Copyright Clause, the Court observed, contains no “command that a time prescription, once set, becomes forever ‘fixed’ or ‘inalterable,’ ” and the Court declined to infer any such command. 537 U. S., at 199. The construction petitioners tender here is similarly infirm. The terms afforded works restored by §514 are no less “limited” than those the CTEA lengthened. Nor had the “limited Tim[e]” already passed for the works at issue here—many of them works formerly denied any U. S. copyright protection—for a period of exclusivity must begin before it may end. Petitioners also urge that the Government’s position would allow Congress to legislate perpetual copyright terms by instituting successive “limited” terms as prior terms expire. But as in Eldred, such hypothetical misbehavior is far afield from this case. In aligning the United States with other nations bound by Berne, Congress can hardly be charged with a design to move stealthily toward a perpetual copyright regime.
609 F. 3d 1076, affirmed.
Ginsburg, J.; Breyer, J., dissenting.