Fairness in Musical Licensing Act of 1998
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Also known as the 1998 Sonny Bono Act, the Copyright Term Extension Act or Fairness in Musical Licensing Act of 1998, introduced by Rep. Howard Coble, R-NC, gave copyright holders an additional 20 years to hold onto to their copyrights, providing specific rules for copyright works before or after January 1, 1978. It was nicknamed the “Mickey Mouse Act” by opponents because some saw its key purpose as keeping the cartoon character owned by Walt Disney out of the public domain. The constitutionality of the extension was challenged by Internet law professor Lawrence Lessig, who sued on behalf of a New Hampshire online publisher.. Although many were surprised that the Supreme Court accepted the case (Lessig lost at both the district and appellate court level), the high court upheld the extension, by a 7-2 vote, in Eldred v. Ashcroft. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg concluded that the act “did not exceed Congress’s power under the Copyright Clause and did not violate the First Amendment.” Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer dissented.