Constitutionality of Copyright Laws Reviewed
Checks & Balances applied in light of digital publishing
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U.S.Supreme Court Considers Copyright Argumentby Dave Murphy
The Justices of the United States Supreme Court last reviewed a large copyright case in 1985, and copyright laws have changed since then. Today the Justices announced that they will hear arguments in Eldred v. Ashcroft, 01-618, which will address whether laws passed by Congress side too heavily with writers and other inventors.
This case is of broad public interest because it will determine whether hundreds of thousands of books, songs and movies can be made freely available on the Internet and through other digital venues.
In an amici curiae (friends of the court) brief filed by copyright law professors at American universities the professors are "deeply concerned with the integrity of copyright law and with the constitutional goals of promoting authorship and innovation and of encouraging the broad dissemination of works of authorship. [The professors] are concerned that Congress should grant rights to copyright owners in a manner that is consistent, rather than in conflict, with those goals." The bottom line is that the professors encourage the Justices to protect the public's right to material.
The Constitution grants Congress authority to give authors and inventors the exclusive right to their works for a "limited" time. In 1790, copyrights lasted 14 years. Currently, copyright protection extends until 70 years after the inventor's death.
Dave's OpinionAs an author of books and technical articles, some of which are published commercially, I support strong copyright protection. However, as an avid reader and one who would like to have alternatives to viewing recently published work, I would appreciate having access to popular authorship that's published on the net at a cost lower than traditional printing. I'm looking forward to reading all the briefs submitted to the Court and following the Justices' consideration.
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ReferencesSupreme Court of the United States
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