Eldred v. Ashcroft, as decided by the Supreme Court in January 2003, added another chapter regarding the relationship between copyright law and freedom of speech to the judicial “chain novel” that has been in the writing for the past three decades. The Court affirmed the constitutionality of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 (“CTEA”), which extended the copyright term by twenty years, both for existing works and for new works. As in previous chapters, the Court reached the conclusion that there is no conflict between the two legal fields. It repeated the judicial sound bite that “the Framers intended copyright itself to be the engine of free expression.” Eldred nicely fits the conflict discourse, which is mostly one of denial. But Eldred also included novel and interesting elements that offer a new direction to the conflict discourse, or at least a potential for redirection.
Eldred raises many intriguing copyright law and constitutional law questions. Here, however, I wish to focus on the possible ramifications the case might have on the conflict discourse with respect to its constitutional level. Surprisingly, Eldred is the first facial constitutional challenge to copyright law in 213 years. As copyright law continues to expand into new territories and in unpredictable ways, and as new bills are introduced at a staggering rate to further the scope of the rights of copyright owners, it is crucial that we study the contours of copyright law. This need is especially acute in light of the Court’s comment that “[w]hen, as in this case, Congress has not altered the traditional contours of copyright protection, further First Amendment scrutiny is unnecessary.”
Laura Dickinson’s recent article in this journal substantially improves appreciation of how the United States has detained suspects and instituted military commissions as well as of the roles played by the controversial procedure and tribunals when fighting terrorism. She meticulously traces how detentions and the commissions evolved, trenchantly criticizes them, and persuasively shows international tribunals’ comparative advantage. Dickinson accords relevant domestic case precedent a somewhat laconic analysis, however. For example, she briefly mentions separation-of-powers concerns and Supreme Court opinions that detentions and military commissions implicate while rather tersely assessing Ex parte Quirin, the Second World War decision on which President George W. Bush’s Administration has heavily relied to detain suspects, to create the tribunals, and to support numerous antiterrorism initiatives, especially litigation. Dickinson suggests that closer evaluation of these critical rulings is unwarranted because they lack application for her work and others have explored the opinions. Dickinson’s treatment allows many observers, most prominently cabinet members and federal judges, to overstate Quirin and to ignore Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer.
Dickinson contributes substantially to the ongoing debate over the use of detentions and military commissions in national emergencies. She illuminates myriad complex phenomena and convincingly demonstrates how international tribunals are preferable. Her recommendation may prove superior in terms of theory, policy, and international law. Nonetheless, the very realpolitik that Dickinson so incisively criticizes, and is so clearly exemplified by the Bush Administration’s war on terrorism, mandates elaboration of the governing United States case law.
Communicating ethnic animosity through humor has long been an American tradition. As early as the seventeenth century, Americans have utilized racial jokes to ridicule the culture, dialect, dress, and traditions of each new wave of immigrants. Images of “little black Sambo,” “the drunken Irishman,” and “the stupid Pole” have helped to define which ethnic groups are accepted and which remain on the fringe of society. Although racial jokes convey a wide variety of messages ranging from friendly teasing to flagrant racism, when channeling racism and hostility they comprise one of the greatest weapons in the “repertory of the human mind.” Furthermore, while many dismiss jokes as a nonserious form of communication, racial jokes historically have played an important role in the development of American race relations.
Our law has no mind of its own. In times past, we have fancied law a product of the Deity, and we are still apt to depict it as something transcendent, or even broodingly omnipresent, if not divine. Some of our lawmakers maintain a tradition of donning garments befitting oracles when they utter their pronouncements.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) was enacted to promote the ability of older workers to compete in today’s marketplace. It recognized a disturbing change in the way that companies were treating older workers. Historically, older workers were regarded as a valuable commodity because of their skill and experience. The advance of the modern age brought about a shift in ideologies in corporate America. Older workers came to be considered a liability in the fast-paced business world. Congress drafted the ADEA to eliminate unfounded stereotypes of older workers as less productive and more expensive to employ. It gave statutory protection against discrimination to anyone over forty years of age.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, major American companies had entire departments staffed with hundreds of—sociological specialists who were charged with monitoring the private behavior of company employees—often in their homes—to make sure they did not drink too much, had appropriate sex lives, kept their houses clean, and used their leisure time properly. Worker privacy and autonomy has made tremendous advances since that time, but even today employers continue to take actions against employees whose off-the-job behavior they find objectionable. Recent examples of employee—offenses include cohabitating with a partner outside of marriage, smoking, drinking, motor-cycling, and even having a high cholesterol level.
The role of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment in requiring compensation for government actions that treat landowners unequally is seldom explored. This is remarkable given that the Supreme Court has said for more than a century that the Takings Clause “prevents the public from loading upon one individual more than his just share of the burdens of government, and says that when he surrenders to the public something more and different from that which is exacted from other members of the public, a full and just equivalent shall be returned to him.”
One might infer from this description of the Fifth Amendment that the regulatory takings doctrine should have developed as a comparative right (a species of equal protection law)—a right to be treated legally the same as other property owners in a community, or to receive compensation when differential treatment is justified. Indeed, when the Supreme Court first held that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporated the rule that government may not take private property without just compensation, it relied on the Equal Protection Clause, not the Due Process Clause.
The main argument presented in this Article is that the harms and social costs of copyright cannot be summarized just in terms of enclosure and exclusion. Copyright law, I will argue, also has a silencing effect toward noninfringing creative materials of other independent creators and producers.
In June 2002, the United States Supreme Court approved an Ohio program that made available publicly supported vouchers for children in Cleveland to attend private (nonsectarian) and religious schools. Writing for a five-member majority in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, Chief Justice William Rehnquist held that the Ohio program did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because it (1) has a valid secular purpose of providing educational assistance to poor children; (2) is neutral with respect to religion and provides assistance to a broad class of citizens; and (3) provides aid to religious institutions only as a result of independent decisions made by the parents of the school children participating in the program. The Chief Justice further explained that the ruling was consistent with a line of judicial reasoning dating back to 1983, when the Supreme Court approved an education tax deduction adopted in Minnesota. In a concurring opinion, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor took a broader view of First Amendment jurisprudence, indicating that the majority ruling in Zelman was consistent with case law that allowed tax exemptions and other forms of government aid for religious institutions. Justice Clarence Thomas also concurred with the majority. Citing Brown v. Board of Education, Justice Thomas emphasized that the program in question was a well-intentioned attempt by the state “to provide greater educational opportunity for underprivileged minority students.” He further opined that incorporating the Establishment Clause to prohibit the kind of educational choice that the Ohio program provides would have the ironic effect of employing the Fourteenth Amendment to curtail liberty rights protected by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.