Created 10/08/2002 - 23:00
The U.S. Supreme Court now has the task of determining the legality of the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), a 1998 law that extended millions of existing copyrights by an additional 20 years. On Wednesday, October 9, 2002, the court will hear arguments in the matter of Eldred v. Ashcroft, which seeks to overturn the act on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. At the time of its enactment, the CTEA became known as the "Mickey Mouse Extension Act" because of aggressive lobbying by Disney. Disney's fight to pass the act appeared to be tied in part to the nearing copyright expiration of the Mickey Mouse animated short STEAMBOAT WILLIE. Due to have run out in 2003, the CTEA newly extended WILLIE's copyright until 2023. If the Supreme Court overturns the act, the early versions of Mickey Mouse, along with many other classic cartoons, will be available in the public domain.