Eldred v. Ashcroft Case Brief

Facts of the case

Under the Copyright and Patent Clause of the Constitution, Article 1, section 8, Congress shall have Power…to promote the Progress of Science…by securing [to Authors] for limited Times…the exclusive Right to their…Writings.In the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), Congress enlarged the duration of copyrights by 20 years, making copyrights now run from creation until 70 years after the author’s death. Petitioners, whose products or services build on copyrighted works that have entered the public domain, argued that the CTEA violates both the Copyright Clause’s limited Timesprescription and the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee. They claimed Congress cannot extend the copyright term for published works with existing copyrights. The District Court and the District of Columbia Circuit disagreed.


The CTEA’s extension of existing copyrights did not exceed Congress’ power under the Copyright Clause. The Court rejected petitioners’ arguments that (1) the extension was a congressional attempt to evade or override the limited timesconstraint, (2) Congress could not extend an existing copyright absent new consideration from the author, and (3) the extensions should have been subject to heightened judicial review. The Court also rejected petitioners’ argument that the CTEA violated the First Amendment .

  • Advocates: Lawrence Lessig Argued the cause for the petitioner Theodore B. Olson Argued the cause for the respondent
  • Petitioner: Eldred
  • Respondent: Ashcroft
  • DECIDED BY:Rehnquist Court
  • Location: –
Citation: 537 US 186 (2003)
Argued: Oct 9, 2002
Decided: Jan 15, 2003
Eldred v. Ashcroft Case Brief