The Supreme Court yesterday (Jan. 15) upheld the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), which extended copyright protection an extra 20 years -- to the life of the author plus 70 years.

The Supreme Court yesterday (Jan. 15) upheld the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), which extended copyright protection an extra 20 years -- to the life of the author plus 70 years, Billboard Bulletin reports. The decision is a huge victory for record companies, recording artists, songwriters, and music publishers as well as movie studios and other content providers.

The Court ruled 7-2 in the case, Eldred et. al. v. Ashcroft, which was brought in 1999 by a Stanford University law professor on behalf of an online publisher of public domain material. The suit claimed that Congress had exceeded its constitutional authority by extending the term of copyright from its initial term of 14 years. It was supported by Internet publishers and others who wanted to make older works available online without paying royalties. "Free the Mouse," a reference to the Walt Disney Co.'s Mickey Mouse character, became their unofficial motto.

The CTEA was passed Oct. 7, 1998, by Congress after being held up in committee for more than two years. In addition to the new life-plus-70 term, the term for older works created and renewed before the 1976 Copyright Law revision was extended to 95 years from the prior 75 years.

Observers say that an adverse ruling could have affected international trade relations for the music industry, because the European Union and many European countries also provide copyright terms of life of the author plus 70 years. If the U.S. were not in compliance, they argued, other countries could elect not to offer "home-country" equal protection to U.S. works.

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