Private: Supreme Court upholds copyright extension

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld Congress’s recent copyright extension, which was enacted primarily at Disney’s prompting, and was designed to prevent Mickey Mouse likenesses (and other items for which Disney holds the copyrights) from entering the public domain.

The decision was 7-2 (Breyer and Stevens dissented), and was not unexpected.

Speaking from the bench for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said that the U.S. Constitution “gives Congress wide leeway to prescribe ‘limited times’ for copyright protection and allows Congress to secure the same level and duration of protection for all copyright holders, present and future.” (Thanks for the link, Max.)

The decision came despite the vehement arguments of Lawerence Lessig that “unless copyright laws are dramatically altered ‘There will be nobody who can do what Disney did, ever again.'”

As the A.P. article notes, back in 1790 copyrights lasted only 14 years. There have several extensions since then. After the challenged 1998 extension, the period for individual copyrights is 70 years after the death of the creator. Works owned by corporations are now protected for 95 years.

While I agree with Lessig that our copyright system is unduly constraining creativity and innovation, the fault lies with Congress, not the court. There is no constitutional basis for overturning the copyright extension enacted by the federal legislative body.

But the U.S. Congress should be hung out to dry.

For those who are interested, here’s the plaintiff’s brief. (Thanks, VS.)

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