Lawrence Lessig/blog/2002/10/09/0509

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Tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Eldred v. Ashcroft. In the past weeks, and especially the past week, I've received an extraordinary amount of mail, ranging from wishes of good luck, to demands that I "win." And as well has the press been extraordinary. (Check out Google's cool new service for a list. Even Declan is reporting the story, if only to report that the Ayn Rand Institute has pronounced me a Marxist (along with Milton Friedman, Ronald Coase, James Buchanan and Phyllis Schlafly I assume.)).

When we brought this case 4 years ago, there were many allies who said that there was no way we could win. The reason they were right four years ago is that the world did not yet see how important these issues are, and just what's at stake. In four years, that has changed. Not because we brought this case, or because of anything I've done in this case, but because of an extraordinary number of people who have been pushing to make this issue understandable.

It is extremely hard to win a case like this. I have given it everything I have, and I believe we are right, and have a good shot in showing it. But the important lesson from the attention this case is getting now is this: There is an extraordinary passion and energy out there for the ideals that Eric Eldred and others represent, and that if we do something to push these ideas, we can have an effect.

Thank you for the extraordinary outpouring of support. But please, regardless of what happens here, let us not lose the momentum. Freeing culture is what our framers did; we can do it again, regardless of what 5 justices on the Supreme Court say.

Comments (17)

October 9, 2002 5:22 AM - Anonymous

I wish there was a webcast of the argument...

October 9, 2002 5:52 AM - Mouse

Free me.
Good luck.

October 9, 2002 5:57 AM - Kevin Marks

Good luck indeed - their argument for eternally extending limited times sounds like a twisted version of Zeno's paradox.

October 9, 2002 8:43 AM - Mouseketeer

Thanks for working so hard, not only on the case, but also to bring these issues to everyone's attention.

Here's one Mickey fan who plans to celebrate the start of the case by going to the Disneyland Resort wearing "Free the Mouse!" regailia in the hopes of striking up some conversation.

And hey, since the CA Supreme Court has said that soliciting in malls is a (state) consitutional right, I might just start passing out a few homemade stickers in Downtown Disney.

Good Luck!

October 9, 2002 8:46 AM - Seth Finkelstein

Let me add my best wishes too,
for fighting the good fight!

October 9, 2002 1:44 PM - TJ

Thank you for all your hard work. Good luck tomorrow.

October 9, 2002 2:55 PM - Peter Lindberg

Thanks for fighting this battle, and good luck!

October 9, 2002 11:55 PM - Thomas Beckett

Free the Mouse! Knock 'em dead, Professor! Thanks for representing all of us.

October 10, 2002 12:52 AM - Harry Porterfield

I wish i could have gone to DC to hear the arguements but tests and $$$ said otherwise. The arguements are about as good as they can be and congrats on that to the whole team.

Good luck and I hope the mouse gets free or at least bailed.

October 10, 2002 1:27 AM - Ron Schwartz

I saw the article in the Chicago Tribune Tempo section written by David Streitfeld, staff writer for the L.A. Times. I understand much better what you are trying to accomplish in Eldred. I look forward to reading the transcript of the oral argument taking place today.

October 10, 2002 2:01 AM - Louis

For myself, and other current and future Independant Multi-Media Artists, whose hands are tied by not being allowed two-way cultural communications: I send you beams of focus and strength.


October 10, 2002 2:05 AM - Julian Sanchez

Whatever the court decides, you're doing a tremendous thing -- this isn't about bootlegging Mickey T-shirts or downloading Eminem tunes; it's about an open society and an evolving culture. Thanks for standing up for those things.

October 10, 2002 3:07 AM - Roger Zimmerman

When you get a chance, I'd be interested to hear your _argument_ regarding the Ayn Rand Institute's position on this case, as opposed to your current gratutitous ad hominem remark. In particular, do you believe that the financial success of the copyright holder should be a determinant of the validity and/or term of the copyright?

October 10, 2002 4:12 AM - Matthew Skala

"Gratuitous ad hominem remark"? It's a simple statement of fact - they did call him a Marxist. It's in the Ayn Rand Institute release linked indirectly from his posting. His reporting of that doesn't make him guilty of an ad hominem attack himself.

October 10, 2002 3:52 PM - Joseph Hertzlinger]

I have a question.

If the court decides that Congress can retroactively change copyright terms, can it shorten them retroactively as well?

October 11, 2002 7:39 AM - julian

Hah! An argued response to that invective filled screed makes about as much sense as answering in detail every creationist, flat earther, and tinfoil hat enthusiast with an email account. They're cited for amusement value, not because they deserve any serious attention.

October 12, 2002 4:19 AM - John Thacker]

In the abstract, I think one could make a fair argument that shortening copyright retroactively would be a taking. Takings claims aren't terribly successful (see, e.g., Tahoe-Sierra v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency) partially because (as Steven's majority opinion in the case says) it would really expensive to reimburse people, and would seem to many to set unreasonable limits on governmental power.

But, I think that there would be a decent case against retroactive shortening, at least to shortening beyond the portion when the art was created. Thomas's dissent (joined by Scalia) in Tahoe makes part of that case.