8 J. Intell. Prop. L. 223 (2000-2001)
Eldred v. Reno: An Example of the Law of Unintended Consequences

handle is hein.journals/intpl8 and id is 229 raw text is: CASE COMMENT

ELDRED V. RENO: AN EXAMPLE OF THE LAW
OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES
L. Ray Patterson*
In Eldred v. Reno the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held
that the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), which extends the
copyright term for present and future works for twenty years, was a
constitutional exercise of Congress's copyright power.' The CTEA2 thus
puts an end (at least for two decades) to a policy in effect for more than two
centuries, since the Copyright Act of 1790, that the copyright of a work
expires at the end of a stated term defined at the time the copyright was
granted.3 Since works were copyrighted annually, the policy meant that each
year a certain number of copyrighted works entered the public domain, as
the copyright terms ended seriatim. The mandate of the CTEA is that no
copyrighted work in the United States will go into the public domain before
year 2018.' The Eldred case thus constitutes judicial approval of the
legislative moratorium of the constitutional mandate that copyright protect
the public domain, a policy in partial fulfillment of the fact that copyright,
as the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly stated, is primarily to benefit the
public, only secondarily to benefit the author (as copyright holder).'
* S.J.D. Harvard 1966, LL.B. Mercer University 1956, M.A. Northwestern 1950, A.B. Mercer
University 1949. Mr. Patterson is the Pope Brock Professor of Law at the University of Georgia School
of Law where he teaches Copyright Law, Legal Profession, and Legal Malpractice.
' Eldred v. Reno, 239 F.3d 372, 57 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1842 D.C. Cir. 2001). The Supreme Court
of the United States has granted certiorari to hear this case. On appeal to the Court, the case is now styled
Eldred v. Aslhcroft.
' Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, Pub. L. No. 105-298, 112 Stat. 2827 (1998).
3 17 U.S.C. S 101 (1994).
' Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, Pub. L. No. 105-298, 112 Stat. 2827 (1998).
s Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417,432,220 U.S.P.Q. (BNA) 665,

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