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Celebrating 20 Years of Internet Free Speech

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision in Reno v. ACLU, a case that determined that certain provisions of the Communication Decency Act (CDA) – which sought to govern speech online – violated the right to free speech. This decision was a landmark decision, the Court’s first about the Internet and applied the same freedom of speech rules for print to speech on the Internet (both of which are more open than TV or radio broadcasts).

The CDA was designed to protect children from “obscene or indecent” content. However, because of the breadth and vagueness of the provisions, the Court found that the CDA could also suppress speech to adults:

We are persuaded that the CDA lacks the precision that the First Amendment requires when a statute regulates the content of speech. In order to deny minors access to potentially harmful speech, the CDA effectively suppresses a large amount of speech that adults have a constitutional right to receive and to address to one another.

The Court found that less restrictive alternatives could be used to achieve the same goal of reducing explicit content to children. The CDA, however, resulted in “an unnecessarily broad suppression of speech addressed to adults.”

Reno v. ACLU is a decision that gave us the Internet as we know it today. One that is free and open, a modern town square. Celebrating this landmark ruling brings to mind a number of related issues that are at the forefront of discussions today. While Reno v. ACLU gave us a ruling that established that freedom of speech applies online, we are still fighting for strong net neutrality rules that keeps the Internet open to all and does not favor one speech over another. While the Supreme Court’s Reno v. ACLU decision applied the same First Amendment protections to online speech as print, we are still fighting for reforms to the Electronic Communication Privacy Act to ensure that the same Fourth Amendment protections that apply to print apply to online communications.

Let’s celebrate 20 years of Reno v. ACLU, but remember that there is still work to be done to ensure that Constitutional rights apply with the same force in the digital world as it did in an analog one.

Impression Products v. Lexmark International

On May 30, 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its opinion in Impression Products v. Lexmark International, a case involving patent exhaustion. By an 7-1 margin, the Court found that a patent holder cannot enforce contractual restrictions on downstream sales through a patent infringement case and that international exhaustion applies to patents, just as the Court confirmed international exhaustion to apply to copyright in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley.

Lexmark essentially tried to restrict the refill of its cartridges by third parties by selling cartridges that restricted further use or resale. Lexmark then tried to enforce these restrictions through patent infringement cases against the downstream purchasers/third party resellers. The Court ultimately found that while Lexmark could potentially bring a breach of contract case against the initial purchasers for violating these restrictions, it could not bring a patent infringement suit to assert these claims. Relying on long-standing precedent, the majority opinion (authored by Chief Justice Roberts) notes “even when a patentee sells an item under an express restriction, the patentee does not retain patent rights in that product.”

Additionally, Lexmark asserted that exhaustion did not apply to cartridges sold abroad. The Court “conclude[s] that a patentee’s decision to sell a product exhausts all of its patent rights in that item, regardless of any restrictions the patentee purports to impose or the location of the sale.” The Court notes that the question of the first sale doctrine came up in the context of copyright in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, which ruled that the first sale of a copyrighted product exhausts the rights whether made in the United States or abroad. The majority opinion also points out that while differential pricing may occur, this fact has no bearing on patent exhaustion: “The patentee may not be able to command the same amount for its products abroad as it does in the United States.  But the Patent Act does not guarantee a particular price, much less the price from selling to American consumers.”

One of the more interesting passages in the majority’s opinion is an illustration on the dangers that would occur without exhaustion:

Take a shop that restores and sells used cars. The business works because the shop can rest assured that, so long as those bringing in the cars own them, the shop is free to repair and resell those vehicles. That smooth flow of commerce would sputter if companies that make the thousands of parts that go into a vehicle could keep their patent rights after the first sale.  Those companies might, for instance, restrict resale rights and sue the shop owner for patent infringement. And even if they refrained from imposing such restrictions, the very threat of patent liability would force the shop to invest in efforts to protect itself from hidden lawsuits.  Either way, extending the patent rights beyond the first sale would clog the channels of commerce, with little benefit from the extra control that the patentees retain.  And advances in technology, along with increasingly complex supply chains, magnify the problem.

The use of auto repair as an example of the problems created through overzealous claims of intellectual property protection is compelling given the issues of embedded software in automobiles and anti-circumvention measures. With a growing number of vehicles containing embedded software, some rightholders are claiming that purchasers of these vehicles should not be free to modify, repair or tinker with these items. An article in Wired in 2015 highlighted the fact that John Deere (and other automakers) opposed an exemption to allow circumvention of technological protection measures in order to repair purchased vehicles during the DMCA 10201’s triennial exemption process.

Ultimately, exhaustion of copyright and patent rights serves a critical purpose in ensuring that purchasers can freely repair, re-sell, and lend legitimately purchased items just as they would for goods that are not encumbered by intellectual property rights.

Supreme Court of the United States Upholds University of Texas’ Affirmative Action Policy

On Thursday, June 23, 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States in a 4-3 vote upheld the affirmative action admissions policy in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (Fisher II), finding that the race-conscious admissions program in use at the time of Fisher’s application is lawful under the Equal Protection Clause.  Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor.  Justices Thomas, Alito and Roberts dissented with Justice Kagan recusing herself.

This case was previously heard by the Supreme Court which resulted in a 2013 opinion which in a 7-1 vote, remanded the case to the Fifth Circuit.  In Fisher I, the Supreme Court directed the Fifth Circuit to reconsider the case under the higher threshold of strict scrutiny in determining whether UT’s admission policy comports with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  On remand, the Fifth Circuit once again upheld UT’s admission policy in which UT accepts the top 10% of graduates from Texas high schools and uses a holistic review for the remaining open spots.  The holistic approach includes many factors, with race being one of the factors.  The admissions process did not have quotas or specific goals in terms of the number of students meeting specific characteristics.  The Association of Research Libraries joined with 37 other higher education organizations in an amicus brief supporting the University of Texas.  Oral arguments were held in December.

In the opinion, Justice Kennedy first lays out three “controlling principles” from Fisher I in determining the constitutionality of a public university’s affirmative-action program: 1) the program must be evaluated under the higher bar of strict scrutiny; 2) universities cannot impose a fixed quota, but deference is given to a university’s “reasoned, principled explanation” to pursue diversity; and 3) the university bears the burden of proving that a “nonracial approach” would not promote its interests in promoting diversity (i.e., the university is not given deference on this point).

Although Justices Kennedy and Breyer seemed interested in the possibility of remanding the case back to the trial court during oral arguments, the opinion points out that there would be limited data available and “a remand would do nothing more than prolong a suit that has already persisted for eight years and cost the parties on both sides significant resources.”  While remand was not appropriate in this case, the majority opinion cautions the University of Texas to “remain mindful that diversity takes many forms” and that “Through regular evaluation of data and consideration of student experience, the University must tailor its approach in light of changing circumstances, ensuring that race plays no greater role than is necessary to meet its compelling interest.”

The court turns to the university’s goals in trying to improve diversity, noting that the “goals cannot be elusory or amorphous–they must be sufficiently measurable to permit judicial scrutiny of the policies adopted to reach them.”  Here, the University of Texas

identifies the educational values it seeks to realize through its admissions process: the destruction of stereotypes, the “‘promot[ion of] cross-racial understanding,’” the preparation of a student body “‘for an increasingly diverse workforce and society,’” and the “‘cultivat[ion of] a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry.’”  Later in the proposal, the University explains that it strives to provide an “academic environment” that offers a “robust exchange of ideas, exposure to differing cultures, preparation for the challenges of an increasingly diverse workforce, and acquisition of competencies required of future leaders.”  All of these objectives, as a general matter, mirror the “compelling interest” this Court has approved in its prior cases.

The University has provided in addition a “reasoned, principled explanation” for its decision to pursue these goals . . . following a year-long study, which concluded that “[t]he use of race-neutral policies and programs ha[d] not been successful” in “provid[ing] an educational setting that fosters cross-racial understanding, provid[ing] enlightened discussion and learning, [or] prepar[ing] students to function in an increasingly diverse workforce and society.”  (internal citations omitted)

The Court also rejects Fisher’s argument that the top 10% plan was sufficient to promote diversity.  Indeed, the Court notes that “the record itself contains significant evidence, both statistical and anecdotal” that race-neutral admissions policies were insufficient.  Key pieces of evidence including the demographic data the University submitted showing the stagnation of minority student enrollment from 1996-2002; anecdotal evidence of minority students feeling lonely and isolated; and quantitative evidence of the lack of enrollment of at least one minority student in classes with five or more students.

The majority also rejects Fisher’s proposal to eliminate the holistic approach and increase the percentage of students admitted based on class rank alone.  The Court points out the deficiencies of using a single metric to admit students:

Even if, as a matter of raw numbers, minority enrollment would increase under such a regime, petitioner would be hard-pressed to find convincing support for the proposition that college admissions would be improved if they were a function of class rank alone. That approach would sacrifice all other aspects of diversity in pursuit of enrolling a higher number of minority students. A system that selected every student through class rank alone would exclude the star athlete or musician whose grades suffered because of daily practices and training. It would exclude a talented young biologist who struggled to maintain above-average grades in humanities classes. And it would exclude a student whose freshman-year grades were poor because of a family crisis but who got herself back on track in her last three years of school, only to find herself just outside of the top decile of her class.

These are but examples of the general problem. Class rank is a single metric, and like any single metric, it will capture certain types of people and miss others. This does not imply that students admitted through holistic review are necessarily more capable or more desirable than those admitted through the Top Ten Percent Plan. It merely reflects the fact that privileging one characteristic above all others does not lead to a diverse student body. Indeed, to compel universities to admit students based on class rank alone is in deep tension with the goal of educational diversity as this Court’s cases have defined it . . . At its center, the Top Ten Percent Plan is a blunt instrument that may well compromise the University’s own definition of the diversity it seeks.

None of Fisher’s proposed solutions or other solutions discussed during litigation were shown to be “available” and “workable” means of achieving UT’s educational goals and therefore, the Court finds, the university has met its burden of demonstrating its admissions plan was narrowly tailored.

The majority opinion concludes that while it is upholding UT’s policy, the university must continue to revisit its admissions policy and reflect on it:

A university is in large part defined by those intangible “qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness.” Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U. S. 629, 634 (1950). Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission. But still, it remains an enduring challenge to our Nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity.

In striking this sensitive balance, public universities, like the States themselves, can serve as “laboratories for experimentation.”  The University of Texas at Austin has a special opportunity to learn and to teach. The University now has at its disposal valuable data about the manner in which different approaches to admissions may foster diversity or instead dilute it. The University must continue to use this data to scrutinize the fairness of its admissions program; to assess whether changing demographics have undermined the need for a race-conscious policy; and to identify the effects, both positive and negative, of the affirmative-action measures it deems necessary.

Ultimately, today’s decision is a win for universities (particularly given that at least one of the dissenting justices indicated that he would have overturned the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Grutter, which allows race to be considered as one factor but that does not amount to a quota).  However, the majority opinion takes care to caution that admissions policies using race as a factor must continue to be revisited in light of new evidence and changes in circumstance.

Supreme Court denies Authors Guild Petition for Certiorari

The Supreme Court of the United States has denied the Authors Guild for petition of certiorari in Authors Guild v. Google.  This decision leaves the Second Circuit’s opinion affirming fair use in the Google Books case intact.  In the Second Circuit’s opinion from October 2015, the court released its unanimous opinion, authored by Judge Leval, affirming that Google’s copying of books and display of snippets in a search index is transformative and a fair use.  Additionally, the Second Circuit found that Google’s provision of digital copies to its partner libraries that submitted the particular work is not an infringement.

ICYMI: Authors Guild Seeks Supreme Court Review of Google Books Fair Use Case

On December 31, 2015, the Authors Guild filed its petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States asking for review of the Second Circuit’s decision affirming fair use of the Google Books project.  The Second Circuit held that Google’s copying of books submitted to it by libraries and display of snippets is transformative and a fair use.  Furthermore, the Second Circuit held that Google’s provision of digital copies to its partners libraries that submitted the particular work is not an infringement.

The Authors Guild has challenged the Second Circuit’s ruling, questioning when a use is “transformative.”  The Authors Guild asserts in its petition that there is a circuit split over the meaning of transformativeness and argues that the Second Circuit’s finding that Google’s digitization of works for the creation of a full-text search database and display of snippets was not transformative because it did not create new expression.  The Authors Guild also asserts that the Second Circuit’s focus on transformativeness shifts the test for fair use from the statutory four fair use factors to a single factor.

It is far from clear, however, whether the Supreme Court will grant the Authors Guild’s petition. First, despite the Authors Guild claims a circuit split on the meaning of transformativeness, it is not clear that the six circuits cited in the petition have actually split on this issue as the facts of the cited cases differ greatly.  Furthermore, the argument that the Second Circuit has shifted to a one-factor test is clearly unsupported by the court’s October decision.  In its opinion in the Google Books case, as well as other fair use cases, the Second Circuit carefully analyzes each of the four fair use factors.  While the transformativeness of the use is certainly an important aspect, it is not the only factor and the Second Circuit certainly does not treat it as the sole determinative one.

Soon after the Second Circuit opinion was released, Professor Jane Ginsburg noted in her article, Google Books and Fair Use: From Implausible to Inevitable? that the Google Books decision “probably surprised no one.”  She noted also that “courts came to interpret Campbell’s reference to ‘something new, with a further purpose’ to encompass copying that does not add ‘new expression,’ so long as the copying gives the prior work ‘new meaning.’  Fair use cases began to drift from ‘transformative work’ to ‘transformative purpose,’ in the latter instance, copying of an entire work, without creating a new work, could be excused, particularly if the court perceived a sufficient public benefit in the appropriation.”  Ginsburg acknowledges that courts have interpreted transformativeness to include a transformative purpose and does not cite any circuit split on this issue.

Furthermore, in reviewing the opinion, Professor Ginsburg stated that the Second Circuit’s opinion was restrained and did not expand fair use.

The court’s cautious circumscription thus suggests that the Google Books decision does not herald a new extension of an already-expanded fair use defense, but (at least until a competitor with equivalent resources appears) is instead sui generis. The Second Circuit’s abstention from addressing some of the district court’s fair use analyses similarly betokens the decision’s modest scope.  For example, the district court embraced the long-spurned argument that defendant’s copying does the plaintiff a favor by bringing the work to greater public attention (“a reasonable factfinder could only find that Google Books enhances the sales of books to the benefit of copyright holders”), but the Second Circuit’s opinion forgoes such contentious flourishes.

Given that the Google Books opinion does not represent a true circuit split, the Second Circuit opinion does in fact review all four fair use factors, and the outcome was an expected one, the Supreme Court may want to pass on accepting the Authors Guild’s petition for certiorari.

 

New Advocacy and Policy Update

The latest ARL Advocacy and Public Policy Update (covering the period from October 1 to December 22) is now available.  Previous Advocacy and Policy Updates can be found here.

From the current update’s summary:

Copyright continues to be an active area with a number of developments since October. The House Judiciary Committee continues to move forward with its copyright review and is close to completing its schedule of meetings between House Judiciary majority and minority staffers and witnesses who testified at hearings during the course of the review. In early 2016, members of the House Judiciary Committee will determine what issues they may want to work on with respect to possible reform. Additionally, Representatives Marino, Chu and Comstock introduced their bill on Copyright Office modernization, which would move the Copyright Office out of the Library of Congress and establish it as an independent agency within the legislative branch. On October 16, 2015, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit released its long awaited opinion in Authors Guild v. Google, strongly affirming fair use. Also in October, the Library of Congress released its final rules for the current cycle of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA) Section 1201 rulemaking. Finally, the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) filed comments responding to the Copyright Office’s Notice of Inquiry regarding a proposed pilot program for mass digitization and extended collective licensing. These comments questioned the wisdom of such a pilot program.

The US Congress passed the omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2016 and avoided a government shutdown. The omnibus exceeded mandatory caps on discretionary funding, resulting in positive results for higher education and libraries.

The Department of Education issued a proposal to amend regulations and require that all Department grantees awarded direct competitive grant funds openly license all copyrightable intellectual property created with these funds. ARL submitted comments supporting the benefits of open licensing and encouraging continued dialog.

ARL joined in comments on the proposed revision to OMB Circular A-130, the Circular that provides the rules of the road for federal information management and information technology.

The DC Circuit heard oral arguments on net neutrality in December. Although threats regarding a rider to undermine the FCC’s ability enforce its net neutrality rules emerged during the omnibus appropriations process, this rider was ultimately not included.

Congress continues to consider reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), and there is widespread support in the House for such reform. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 was altered in ways that raise greater privacy concerns than its original version and was passed in the omnibus appropriations bill.

The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (Fisher II), a case involving the University of Texas (UT) admissions process, which seeks to improve student body diversity.

Finally on the international front, more countries have ratified the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, moving the Treaty closer to entry into force. The negotiations of the TransPacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) have now been finalized and the texts are now public, but the agreement must still be signed and passed by each of the negotiating parties.

Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas (Fisher II)

On December 9, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a case involving the University of Texas (UT) admissions process which seeks to improve student-body diversity.  The Association of Research Libraries joined with 37 other higher education organizations in an amicus brief supporting the University of Texas.  A number of notable individuals attended oral arguments in the case, including Cecelia Suyat, the wife of the late Thurgood Marshall.

This case was previously heard by the Supreme Court which resulted in a 2013 opinion which in a 7-1 vote (Justice Kagan recused herself), remanded the case to the Fifth Circuit.  In Fisher I, the Supreme Court directed the Fifth Circuit to reconsider the case under the higher threshold of strict scrutiny in determining whether UT’s admission policy comports with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  On remand, the Fifth Circuit once again upheld UT’s admission policy in which UT accepts the top 10% of graduates from Texas high schools and uses a holistic review for the remaining open spots.  The holistic approach includes many factors, with race being one of the factors.  The admissions process did not have quotas or specific goals in terms of the number of students meeting specific characteristics.

Highlights from Oral Arguments in Fisher II

Oral Arguments by Fisher

During oral arguments in Fisher II, Mr. Rein, representing plaintiff Fisher, argued that the University of Texas did not meet its burden of proving the necessity of the program and that its admission policy was distinguishable from the policy that the Supreme Court upheld in Grutter v. Bollinger (challenging University of Michigan’s law school’s admission policy) in 2003.

Justice Sotomayor challenged Mr. Rein, asking why the University of Texas’ admissions policy was impermissible if need for the program was proven or assumed.  Mr. Rein asserted that individual profiles must be compared against each other to satisfy prior Supreme Court cases.

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR:  If they had to use race, how are they using it improperly?

MR. REIN:  If you have to use race and you want to use the model that was created in Bakke and Grutter, you would need to build profiles of individuals that would allow you to judge them one against another in the context of the class and the educational experience you are trying to create.

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: My God, that sounds like it’s using race more rather than less than this plan does.

MR. REIN:  I ­­- I’m sorry if it sounds that  way.  It is not.  It simply says, in a situation of the Bakke situation where you’re looking at every aspect of an individual and you’re trying to judge whether one or another of individuals for the ­ for places, the last places would most benefit the class, the class as a whole as a learning entity, then you can, as Bakke indicates, take account of the fact that they may have different backgrounds, which would contribute different ideas.

Justice Ginsburg asserted that the top 10% policy, which Fisher was not challenging, was designed to improve racial diversity as well:

JUSTICE GINSBURG: But in Grutter ­­ in both Grutter and what Justice Powell said would be proper in Bakke, race was a factor. Race, itself, was a factor. And that’s why I’m finding it very hard to distinguish what the university is doing, apart from the 10 percent plan. But let – ­­ let me ask you about the 10 percent plan itself, because it seems to me that that is so obviously driven by one thing only, and that thing is race. It’s totally dependent upon having racially segregated neighborhoods, racially segregated schools, and it operates as a disincentive for a minority student to step out of that segregated community and attempt to get an integrated education.

MR. REIN: Justice Ginsburg, let ­­- let me respond to this, with respect, this ­­ this way. The top 10 plan does not classify anybody by race. It addresses only standing within the Texas educational system.

JUSTICE GINSBURG: But it could work only in the background.

MR. REIN: When you say “work,” it works on a number of fronts. It creates geographic diversity. It looks all over Texas. It doesn’t distinguish between high schools. It creates socioeconomic diversity. It does have an effect, a demonstrated effect on race because a number of minorities, the type they care about, are admitted under the top 10 program. It’s not based on race. It’s based on the degree of effort you make relative to the other people with whom you’re being ­­-

JUSTICE GINSBURG: It is created because of race.

MR. REIN: I ­­ I’m not in a position to tell you why it was created. It ­­ it was created ­­

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Is there any doubt that it was created to increase the number of minority students? Was there any other reason for the 10 percent plan?

MR. REIN: Well, I’ve given you other reasons, which are it’s a ­­ it’s kind of a democratic recognition that you want to invite people from all over Texas, regardless of the school they went to. You’re looking for those who are trying the hardest, who are doing the best, who excel in their environment.

When questioned about what would constitute sufficiently concrete criteria to achieve diversity, Mr. Rein conceded that it is difficult but did not offer specific solutions:

JUSTICE KENNEDY: You argue that the University of Texas’ goals and­­ or announced goals are insufficiently concrete. Can you give an example of what, in your view, would be a sufficiently concrete criterion or set of criteria to achieve diversity?

MR. REIN: Well, and ­­ and certainly, the Solicitor General’s attempted to do so by breaking down the abstract goals into concrete objectives. One goal that certainly Grutter respects is, if you have studied your campus and you believe there’s an inadequate exchange of views, and the minorities feel so isolated they cannot properly bring to bear their perspective on the campus, you can look at measures of how successful are we in this kind of dialogue and try to investigate that, and try to say, okay, is there a level ­­you know, when do we reach a level of critical mass, which is the term in Grutter, where that exchange is vibrant and is taking place on our campus. That’s one measure.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, but I don’t understand. How do you do that?

MR. REIN: It’s not easy to do, and it’s not our job to do it. I mean, we’re not here to tell them how to do it, but your ­­ if one wanted to endeavor to try to find this kind of concrete level, we’re not saying quota, but we are saying you have to ­-­ you, the university, if you want to use this forbidden tool, this odious classification, you’ve got to find a way to do it. You’ve got to be able to explain what your concrete objective is.

Justices Sotomayor and Breyer discussed how administrators, faculty and students may raise issues highlighting the need for improved diversity on campus.

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: You’re saying we can’t they can’t use demographics. So they use a study that shows there’s less classes. There’s less people in classes. They talk to administrators, faculty, and students. They’re having racial incidents on campus where students of color are complaining that they feel isolated, that stereotyping is going on, on campus. What more do they need?

MR. REIN: Let me start with your first concern, which is this classroom study. First thing I would observe about that if I were in their position, and I’m not, is that the second study was done at a time when there were more minorities admitted than the first study, and they claimed it went backwards. So that might tell me right away that the problem ­­ the necessity for using race could not be demonstrated for that, because when you ­­

JUSTICE BREYER: Yeah. Because the ­-­ the necessity is not the necessity you’re talking about. It’s the – ­­ as I read it. I mean, you use words like “critical mass” and so forth. It sounds like a cloud of sort of you don’t know what they’re talking, but as I read further into it, it becomes quite specific, that is, 75 percent of the students are at this university because they were in the top 10 percent of their class. And it doesn’t take long before students and faculty in particular situations know who is who. 25 percent of the students in that class are admitted; they’re good students, not in the top 10 percent on the basis of leadership, activities, awards, work experience, community service, family’s economic statutes, school status, family responsibilities, single­parent home, languages other than English spoken at home, SAT score relative to school’s average and race occasionally, too.

Okay? We’re talking about that 25 percent. And it won’t take long before students in a class see that in that 25 percent, which means you aren’t just in the top 10 percent of your class, in that 25 percent there is hardly anybody who is African­ American or Hispanic. And the -­­ and seven years of experience with that kind of thing led the faculty at meetings, administrators, and others to say, we should do more to see that that 25 percent has occasionally somebody who is a minority.
[. . .]

That’s what their program is. It isn’t something like critical mass, et cetera. And ­­ and ­­ and if you have to say, it seems to me, why is that not a diversity-­related judgment of what is necessary?

MR. REIN: So, Justice Breyer, let me answer that. First of all, one thing your question establishes quite clearly is if one assumes premises from evidence that doesn’t exist, you can draw conclusions that are perhaps invalid. So let me go back to ­­ to where you started. You say these people are admitted on the basis of the various PAI [Personal Achievement Index] factors, which you read. That’s not how they’re admitted. That PAI is only part of the admissions criteria . . . And it’s not truly holistic because in the holistic systems, you look at the person as a whole. Here you could have the most wonderful PAI and never come close to admission, because they use the AI [Academic Index] independently. So they’re not admitted ­­

JUSTICE BREYER: Every school is like that. Every school in the country that’s a college that I’ve ever experienced is a combination of grades, class position, and a lot of other things.Welcome to EditPad.org – your online plain text editor. Enter or paste your text here. To download and save it, click on the button below.

Justice Kennedy seemed interested in the possibility of remanding the case to the District Court level and questioned Mr. Rein’s opposition to remand.  Justice Scalia, however, opposed remand to the District Court, arguing that the University of Texas is not entitled to a second chance to develop the record.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: May I begin with almost a procedural point: Did you object to the University’s request that this case be remanded to the district court?

MR. REIN: We did in ­­ in the Fifth Circuit.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: In the Fifth Circuit. It does seem to me, as Justice Alito’s question, and frankly some of the other questions have indicated, that the litigants, and frankly this Court, have been denied the advantage and the perspective that would be gained if there would be additional fact­finding under the instructions that Fisher sought to give. And that just ­­ we’re just arguing the same case . . . It’s as if nothing had happened . . .­­ it seems to me that Justice Alito’s question indicates that this is the kind of thing that we should know but we don’t know.

MR. REIN: Well, let -­­ let me point out that the ­­ the purpose of strict scrutiny is not just to adjudicate. It is to instruct the University that before you use the odious classification, before you employ race, you ought to know these things. If you’re going to depend on them, you ought to study them and know them. So the failure to do that so there is no evidence is not just because they didn’t put it in ­­

JUSTICE KENNEDY: But they weren’t given the chance to add additional evidence in order to meet that standard.

MR. REIN: Well, they can’t go back and recreate the past. They can’t ­­ they have put in all the evidence available to them about ­­

JUSTICE KENNEDY: But they could answer some of the questions as ­­ like the ones Justice Alito added. And I think it’s a very important point.

MR. REIN: They could -­­ I mean, but they’d have to go back and study the conditions at the time they made the decision. And I think that the failure to do that kind of thing indicates that the retreat to race was reflexive; was done on the day Grutter came down.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Not only that. Also the failure to put it in. It was their burden to put it in, wasn’t it? . . . So we’re going to say, oh, they failed to put it in. Let’s give them another chance. Let’s do a do-­over. Send it back down so they can now put in what they should have put in in order to prevail the first time around.

MR. REIN: And that I -­­ I entirely agree with that. And in ­­ in fairness, they knew that the standard was strict scrutiny. Grutter had said strict scrutiny. Bakke said strict scrutiny. It was no surprise. And Justice Alito, more directly, the evidence we did find in the record indicated that where the most selective schools were concerned, which would then lead you to the smaller classes, more of the top ten minorities enrolled in that than the added minorities that they derived ­­

JUSTICE ALITO: Well, the issue in this case is not whether the University can have holistic review . . . The issue is whether they can have as a component of holistic review after they have taken into account other characteristics that are not dependent on race; they can add race as an additional characteristic. And so if it were ­­is there ­ would there be any way of determining, if there were a remand, which of the non­-top 10 admittees were admitted solely because of race? In other words, these students would not have been admitted taking into account leadership and family, education and socioeconomic background and hardship and everything else.

Mr. Rein asserted that the holistic review using race as a factor produced only a marginal increase in diversity.  When Justice Sotomayor disputed this point pointing out to a larger rate of admissions offers granted to minority students, Mr. Rein argued that the University of Texas has not fully measured the effect of using race as a factor.

Justice Sotomayor raised the concern that “If you’re reading proof a compelling need . . . will any holistic review ever survive? Because as I’m reading your answer, to narrowly tailor, schools have to use nonracial means of doing it.  And if the 10 percent plan is the only thing that achieves a greater number of minorities, won’t every school have to use a 10 percent plan?”

Justices Breyer and Ginsburg then questioned Mr. Rein on his views on how race could be used as a factor in the holistic approach.

JUSTICE BREYER: No, but that’s exactly the question, I think. I would ­­= I can put the same question ­­ or suppose we do send it back to the district court and, put in more evidence, we tell them. Suppose we did that. And suppose they start with the basic plan where we want to use race is in the 25 percent of the holistic area. We want to do that. Now, they’re using the chart ­­ and I’ve seen the chart ­­ of the factors that are one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve. You know, using that chart. I’ve seen the chart. And at the bottom of the chart in my list is the word “race.” It says “race,” r-a-­c-­e. Okay? What kind of evidence, in your opinion, could they or anyone else with any roughly similar plan put in that would show, in your view, that this is constitutional?

MR. REIN: Well, I mean, you have the example of Justice Powell’s opinion in Bakke. And that says that if you’re looking at the whole person and you’re comparing individuals one to another to say who will best suit the educational need of the class, then you take account of a person’s race. It’s part of the -­­ the exercise . . .

[. . .]

JUSTICE BREYER: What you’re saying is you should look at the two folders, and as a kind of tiebreaker, use race. That, to you, is okay. Now, is there ­­ you said there is several others? It would be helpful if you ­­ if you can summarize them in a sentence, so I get an idea of what the others are.

MR. REIN: You could ­­ you could give more emphasis to the socioeconomic factors in the school.

JUSTICE BREYER: That’s not to use race. I’m saying r-­a-­c-­e, race. I want to know which are the things they could do that, in your view, would be okay. Because I’m really trying to find out. Not fatal in fact, we’ve said. Okay? Not fatal in fact. Fine. What are the things, in your view, that they could do so it is not fatal in fact?

MR. REIN: And what I’ve said first is they could shape their system more toward the Bakke system, and move toward individualized consideration. That’s one thing. That’s not fatal in fact, because this Court endorsed the ­ the view that Justice Powell took of the Harvard system in Bakke. So that’s one. They could expand the top 10. That’s another alternative. That’s ­­ that’s available. They could,­­ as I said, they could re-score some of this ­­

JUSTICE GINSBURG: But the top 10, you said it doesn’t use race. Justice Breyer is asking, you say yes, race can be a factor. It was a factor in Bakke. It was a factor in Grutter. And so far, you’re saying that now it can be a factor only if what? I mean, we’re not talking about so­-called neutral factors. We’re talking about ­­-

MR. REIN: Well, I mean, the first question is, you know, why are you using it? The why. Therefore, it can be a factor. You have to clarify the objective, you have to show the necessity, and you have to show that, if you, as ­­ as they do, live with and accept, over time, a very small increment in a very small segment of the class, that you can’t get it done any other way . . . Because race is not the baseline. It’s an odious classification. That’s where we differ.

As Mr. Rein’s time expired, Justice Ginsburg questioned what relief the plaintiff, Ms. Fisher, was seeking.  She pointed out that injunctive relief was not possible due to the fact that Ms. Fisher graduated from another institution already and that there was no class action.  Mr. Rein indicated that they would seek damages, including a refund of Ms. Fisher’s admission fees.

Oral Arguments by the University of Texas

Mr. Garre represented UT and opened his argument by summarizing that the record supports a need for the holistic plan, that the holistic policy has had a meaningful impact on diversity, and that the policy did not adopt a quota.

Justice Alito questioned how many students were admitted with race as a factor who would not have otherwise been admitted.  He also raised concerns that requiring a holistic review raised stereotyping issues regarding minority students admitted under the top 10% policy.

JUSTICE ALITO: Well, on that point, can you determine which of the holistic admittees would not have been admitted if race was not added to the ­­ to the determination?

MR. GARRE: Okay. This goes to the meaningful impact point, and I think there are several ways to address it, Justice Alito. First, what you can do is you can look in the increase in African-­American and Hispanic holistic admissions after the consideration of race was added. And what you find is, is that in each year, 2005, 2006, 2007, the percentage of African­-American and Hispanics admitted and enrolled under the holistic plan grew. In fact, there was a 70 percent ­­-

JUSTICE ALITO: That’s not really my question. My question was if you look at an individual person, can you tell whether that person was admitted because ­­ solely because of race? Whether that person would not have been admitted were it not for the fact that the person was an African­-American or Hispanic?

MR. GARRE: Your Honor, I think, given the contextualized and individualized nature of that inquiry, that’s going to be difficult. But I think the record nevertheless answers your question because you can show a marked increase in diversity under the plan at issue. I just ­­ I’ve just explained to you how the record confirms that holistic admissions of African-­Americans and Hispanics increased markedly in each year. If you look at student body diversity overall, African­-American enrollment increased by two, doubled from 2002 to 2008 from about 3 percent to about 6 percent.

JUSTICE ALITO: What ­­ one of the things I find troubling about your argument is the suggestion that there is something deficient about the African­-American students and the Hispanic students who are admitted under the top 10 percent plan. They’re not dynamic. They’re not leaders. They’re not change agents. And I don’t know what the basis for that is . . . It’s ­­ really it’s based on a terrible stereotyping that ­­. . . What is the basis for that? ­­

MR. GARRE: It’s exactly the opposite. This Court has said time and again that you can’t assume that minorities think alike just because they have the same skin color. What the University of Texas does is it considers ­ it takes into account the fact that people who come from different experiences, different backgrounds are going to have different contributions to the class. If you had the situation where all the out-of-­State admits or most of the out-­of­State admits were coming predominantly from western States, then the University of Texas and any university would try to get out-­of-­State admits from other parts of the country because it would want the ­­ both perspectives. . . What stereotyping, Your Honor, is saying, that just because you get a sufficient number of blacks or Hispanics under the 10 percent plan means that you can’t look at the class holistically and say, we’re not getting a variety of perspectives among African-­Americans or Hispanics.

JUSTICE ALITO: Yeah. But what is the basis for saying that? That’s what I don’t understand. It’s kind of the assumption that if the ­­- if a student -­ if a black student or a Hispanic student is admitted as part of the top 10 percent plan, it has to be because that student didn’t have to compete against very many whites and -­ and Asians. In -­­ in the high school class, it’s a really pernicious stereotype.

MR. GARRE: It’s ­­ it’s not a stereotype at all, Your Honor. It’s based on the undeniable fact about the manner in which the top 10 percent plan operates. The Top 10 Percent Law was enacted in response to Hopwood, and there’s nothing ­­ there’s no challenge to the law in this case that admits many well-­deserving students. But the fact is, is that -­­ that the way that the Top 10 Percent Law admits minority students is by admitting those students from the lower­performing, racially identifiable schools. And the way ­­ the reason we know that is because if you look at the bill analysis decided by Justice Ginsburg in her descent the last time we were here, that analysis specifically says on page 4, “Because of the persistence of segregation in this State, minority students will be admitted under the top 10 percent plan.”

JUSTICE ALITO: I don’t doubt that that is one of the things that it does, and I would have thought that that would be something that you would regard as beneficial . . . Wasn’t that the ­­- the reason for adopting affirmative action in the first place because there are people who have been severely disadvantaged through discrimination and ­­ and lack of wealth, and they should be given a benefit in admission . . .­ but that’s one -­­ one of the things that it does, but it’s not the only thing that it does.

MR. GARRE: Your Honor, the University of Texas applauds those students. It wants those students. Those students are admitted through holistic review as well. Nevertheless, the University can look at an incoming class and determine that not all the perspectives among a particular class of students is being represented. This is straight out of the Harvard plan in Bakke.

In defending the need for the policy, Mr. Garre pointed out that UT was pursuing educational benefits of diversity that have been recognized by the Supreme Court.  UT also noted that the top-10 percent plan was compromising its educational objectives.  Additionally, UT found that there was a decrease in student body diversity under race-neutral policies and that it therefore needed to change its policies to improve diversity.  Mr. Garre noted that in reviewing the policy, UT looks to “classroom diversity.  We look at feedback from students; from faculty . . .the racial climate, including incidents.”

Chief Justice Roberts pointed out that the Court in Grutter opined that the type of policies at issue would only be needed for the next 25 years, but that 12 years had already passed since the Court’s decision.  He asked Mr. Garre when UT would no longer need such policies:

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, you’re talking about the time ­­ Grutter said that we did not expect these sort of programs to be around in 25 years, and that was 12 -­­ 12 years ago. Are ­­ are we going to hit the deadline? Is this going to be done on in your view in 12 years?

MR. GARRE: Your Honor, I’m not here to give you a date, but what I would say is this: There are systematic problems that these problems ­­ that these policies are attempting to address, including the test score gap between ­­ between African­Americans and Hispanics. And ­­ and the record in this case overwhelmingly shows that without the addition of race, student body diversity suffered, particularly among
African-­Americans.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I understand. I don’t know whether that’s a yes or no. But it was important in the Grutter court that these were a temporary ­­ as necessary, temporary expedience because we’re talking about giving you the extraordinary power to consider race in making important decisions. And we don’t do that as a matter of ­­. . .­ course. And so it was important in Grutter to say, look, this can’t go on forever, 25 years. And when do you think your program will be done?

MR. GARRE: Your Honor, as soon as we ­­- we can achieve the same ­­ sufficient numbers for the educational benefits of diversity without taking race into account, we will no longer take race into account.

In further advancing his argument for the need to use race as a factor, Mr. Garre pointed out to the small number of African-American students enrolled under a race-neutral approach.  He also noted evidence then that “90 percent of our classrooms of the most common size was zero or one African-American.”  Chief Justice Roberts, however, interjected, questioning the value of racial diversity in a physics class. Justice Scalia asserted that the Court has not accepted the need for diversity in a class-by-class basis.

Justice Kennedy returned to the possibility of remand to the district court and asked what evidence UT would have submitted to supplement the record.  Mr. Garre suggested they would have put in additional evidence regarding standing and could also supplement the record as to how those admitted through the holistic approach contributed meaningfully to the student body.  Ultimately, Justice Kennedy suggested that “if you had a remand, you would not have put in much different or much more evidence than we have in the record right now.”  Mr. Garre disputed this characterization and pointed out that the record was only based on the motion for summary judgment and did not include a full trial.

Justice Scalia asserted that diversity may not serve minority students well:

JUSTICE SCALIA: There are – there are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less slower-track school where they do well.  One of the briefs pointed out that – that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas . . . They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re that – they’re being pushed ahead in – in classes that are too fast for them.  I’m just not impressed by the fact that the University of Texas may have fewer.  Maybe it ought to have fewer.  And maybe some – you now, when you take more, the number of blacks, really competent blacks admitted to lesser schools, turns out to be less.  And – and I- I don’t think it – it stands to reason that it’s a a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible.  I just don’t think –

MR. GARRE:  This Court heard and rejected that argument, with respect, Justice Scalia, in the Grutter case . . . If you look at the academic performance of holistic minority admits versus the top 10 percent admits, over time, they fare better.  And, frankly, I don’t think the solution to the problems with student body diversity can be to set up a system in which not only are minorities going to separate schools, they’re going to inferior schools.  I think what experience shows, at Texas, California and Michigan, is that now is not the time and this is not the case to roll back student body diversity in America.

Oral Arguments by Amicus Curiae the United States of America

Solicitor General Verrilli argued on behalf of the United States and pointed to a compelling interest in improving diversity. He noted that “the University has got to articulate a reasoned, principled explanation for its decision to consider the educational benefits of diversity in a matter that this Court has found to be constitutional and substantial.  The University of Texas has met that standard, has articulated exactly the same educational benefits of diversity at exactly the same level of specificity that this Court held constituted a compelling interest in the Grutter case at page 330.  It’s exactly the same.”

Justice Breyer asked whether sending the case back for more evidence for the record might be beneficial.  General Verrilli responded that the record seemed complete for the purpose of affirming the case, but that “if there is doubt, I do think the additional kind of information that might be developed in this case would be to look at the kinds of questions that the Chief Justice was actually asking about, how did the  – how has the program worked in practice over the period of time in which it’s been implemented.  And I think that would be additional relevant information that might help make the judgment.”

General Verrilli also asserted the importance of diversity because

our military leaders believe that it is imperative that we have officer corps that are not only diverse but capable of leading a diverse military, not only for effectiveness but for the very legitimacy of sending our troops in harm’s way.

[ . . . ]

The interest in having law enforcement officers who are not just diverse but who can operate effectively within every racial and ethnic community in highly charged situations is critically important.

Corporate America has told you that having a workforce that is able to function effectively in diverse situations is critical.

And what I would just say in conclusion is that these are the considered judgments of people who actually have the responsibility to ensure that the vital functions of the government protecting the country with the military and with law enforcement and the vital functions of commerce — these are the people who actually have to make sure that these functions are carried out. And this is their considered judgment, and I submit it’s – it’s worth considerable weight in your analysis.

What’s Next?

With Justice Kagan recusing herself, only eight justices will decide the case.  Based on prior opinions, concurrences and dissents, it appears clear that Justices Scalia and Thomas would not uphold the University of Texas’ admission policy with Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor would.  While it can be difficult to predict the actual outcomes of the case, it does not appear that Justice Alito was particularly sympathetic to the University of Texas, leaving Justices Roberts and Kennedy.

Aside from a majority ruling either way, If the Court splits 4-4, the Fifth Circuit’s ruling will stand.  Additionally, the Court could remand the case once again, this time back to the District Court level in order to develop a more complete record.  It seems that there could be some support for this approach from Justices Breyer and Kennedy.

The Court is expected to rule before it concludes its 2015-2016 term in June, though an opinion could be released sooner.

 

New Advocacy and Policy Update Available

The latest ARL Advocacy and Policy Update (covering mid-August to the beginning of October) is now available.  Previous Advocacy and Policy Updates can be found here.

From the current update’s summary:

With its return from an August recess, the US Congress faces several controversial must-pass bills and other divisive issues with little time to spare prior to the passage of a short-term funding measure for the US Government as the Government’s fiscal year ended on September 30. A short-term funding bill that will fund the Government through mid-December was approved in lieu of another Government shutdown.

The US Senate continues to press ahead for passage of the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), a bill to codify the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s 2013 memorandum regarding public access to federally funded research.

The White House is building a pool of prospective candidates for the Librarian of Congress position. With James Billington’s retirement at the end of September, the White House has been reaching out to stakeholders, including ARL, for their input and recommendations. Legislation has been introduced in the Senate to limit the term of the Librarian of Congress to 10 years.

Copyright has been an active area over the past six weeks. Members of the House Judiciary Committee are poised to introduce several bills regarding the future of the US Copyright Office— determining the office’s authority and whether it will remain in the Library of Congress. This may be the first issue that the House considers as it continues its review of the Copyright Act for possible reform. A court ruled that Warner/Chappell Music does not hold a valid copyright to the “Happy Birthday” song lyrics, and there were two positive fair use decisions in Lenz v. Universal and Katz v. Google. The Library Copyright Alliance filed comments on the Copyright Office Notice of Inquiry on Extended Collective Licensing, and the 1201 Digital Millennium Copyright Act rulemaking is still underway.

ARL participated in a number of amicus briefs on a variety of issues. ARL, the American Library Association, Association of College and Research Libraries, and Chief Officers of State Library Agencies filed an amicus brief in support of the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order protecting network neutrality. ARL also joined in an amicus brief in the case Wikimedia v. National Security Agency (NSA), challenging warrantless surveillance and invoking the First Amendment’s protection of privacy.

Congress continues to consider reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, or ECPA and there is widespread support in the House for such reform.

The US Supreme Court has agreed to rehear Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a case involving the University of Texas (UT) admissions process, which seeks to improve student body diversity.

On the international front, several additional countries have ratified the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled, with Canada moving closer to ratification of the treaty. Another meeting took place in late September–early October to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a large, regional, trade agreement among 12 countries including Canada and the US. Finally, the “right to be forgotten” online has been upheld in Europe, and French regulators declared that search engines must apply the right to be forgotten across all domains, not just in France or Europe.

Constitution Day: The U.S. Constitution and Copyright Balance

Happy Constitution Day!  September 17th commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787.  Among its many clauses, the Framers of the Constitution provided for an intellectual property clause in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, which grants Congress the power:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

This clause provides the rationale for our intellectual property system.  While the clause is a grant of power to Congress, so too is it an important limitation.  The Supreme Court of the United States has confirmed that the clause “is both a power and a limitation” and, in the patent case, Graham v. John Deere Co., stated that “Congress in the exercise of the patent power may not overreach the restraints imposed by the stated constitutional purpose.”  In copyright cases, the Supreme Court has confirmed that “The immediate effect of our copyright law is to secure a fair return for an author’s creative labor.  But the ultimate aim is, by this incentive, to stimulate artistic creativity for the general public good.”  Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken.

It is important to remember that the Constitution allows Congress to set limited-time monopolies over intellectual property, but ultimately the goal is “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.”

Promoting progress depends on a rich public domain.  The public domain not only allows the public to access books and texts for learning and discovery, but also serves as a storehouse of raw materials from which derivative works are created and new ideas are built.

Unfortunately, copyright term has been extended extensively since the first Copyright Act of 1790 (modeled after the 1710 Statute of Anne) which provided for a 14 year initial term, with the possibility of a 14 year renewal.  Currently, the copyright term is the life of the author plus 70 years or 95 works for corporate works, significantly exceeding the international term of life plus 50 years.  The currently negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a large free trade agreement between 12 countries in the Asia and Pacific region, includes proposals to export this term to other countries, but also includes a proposal from Mexico to extend our current term to the life of the author plus 95 years.  Lengthy copyright terms hinder the stated Constitutional rationale for the intellectual property protection by shrinking the public domain and exacerbating the orphan works problem.

In the Eldred v. Ashcroft case, the Supreme Court unfortunately upheld by a 7-2 majority that the Copyright Term Extension Act which set the current copyright term, deferring to the judgment of Congress.  The majority opinion in that case did not, however, address the appropriateness of the copyright term extension.  Justice Breyer, however, in dissent vigorously opposed the extension as a violation of the Constitutional rationale of the intellectual property system:

 

The economic effect of this 20-year extension—the longest blanket extension since the Nation’s founding—is to make the copyright term not limited, but virtually perpetual. Its primary legal effect is to grant the extended term not to authors, but their heirs, estates or corporate successors. And most importantly, its practical effect is not to promote, but to inhibit, the progress of “Science”—by which word the Framers meant learning or knowledge.

While the Eldred case had the unfortunate effect of upholding the current term of life plus 70 years, the Supreme Court has interpreted the intellectual property clause to place limits on copyright protections in other areas.  For example, the Court has ruled that copyright does not protect facts, only expression.  See Harper & Row v. Nation Enterprises.  In Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service, the Supreme Court held that “Originality is a Constitutional requirement” for copyright protection and that:

As Justice Brennan has correctly observed, however, this is not “some unforeseen byproduct of a statutory scheme.” It is, rather, “the essence of copyright,” ibid., and a constitutional requirement. The primary objective of copyright is not to reward the labor of authors, but “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” To this end, copyright assures authors the right to their original expression, but encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by a work. This principle, known as the idea/expression or fact/expression dichotomy, applies to all works of authorship. As applied to a factual compilation, assuming the absence of original written expression, only the compiler’s selection and arrangement may be protected; the raw facts may be copied at will. This result is neither unfair nor unfortunate. It is the means by which copyright advances the progress of science and art. (internal citations omitted).

Aside from copyright term and the scope of copyright, copyright limitations and exceptions can help advance the important Constitutional goal of promoting progress.  The Copyright Act has a number of specific limitations and exceptions as well as a flexible doctrine known as fair use, codified under Section 107.  These limitations and exceptions to copyright allow for the reliance on copyrighted works without permission of the rightholder.  Fair use is a critical right of users, allowing copyright law the flexibility to adapt to evolving technologies and promoting the progress of science.

The Supreme Court in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose noted that fair use supports the Constitutional purpose of copyright:

The fair use doctrine thus “permits [and requires] courts to avoid rigid application of the copyright statute when, on occasion, it would stifle the very creativity which the law is designed to foster.” . . . The goal of copyright, to promote science and the arts, is generally furthered by the creation of transformative works.  Such works thus lie at the hart of the fair use doctrine’s guarantee of breathing space within the confines of copyright . . . (internal citations omitted).

In addition to supporting the intellectual property clause of the U.S. Constitution, fair use also provides an important accommodation to the guarantee of freedom of speech in the First Amendment.  In the Eldred v. Ashcroft case, the Supreme Court confirmed that fair use serves as a “First Amendment safeguard.”

In addition to spurring the creation and publication of new expression, copyright law contains built-in First Amendment accommodations.  First, it distinguishes between ideas and expression and makes only the latter eligible for copyright protection . . . Second, the “fair use” defense allows the public to use not only facts and ideas contained in a copyrighted work, but also expression itself in certain circumstances.

The Constitution’s intellectual property clause grants Congress the power to permit limited time monopolies on copyright, but also mandates balance in the copyright system.  The ultimate goal of copyright is to promote progress and advance the public good.  Thus, the Supreme Court has interpreted the intellectual property clause to limit copyright in many ways, by distinguishing between facts and expression and requiring some degree of originality for copyright protection.  While copyright and the First Amendment right to freedom of speech could potentially be in tension with each other, the fair use doctrine provides an important safeguard to both accommodate the rights of users and promote the progress of science.  In celebrating Constitution Day, celebrate that the Constitutional rational for the U.S. intellectual property system is inherently grounded in the concept of balance: providing an incentive to authors, but ultimately advancing the general public good.

 

Copyright Term Myths and Facts

The written testimony of four of the five witnesses speaking at the July 15, 2014 House Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing on Moral Rights, Termination Rights, Resale Royalty and Copyright Term, address the issue of copyright term. Notably, none of these witnesses suggest that the current term be extended further and Professor of Law Michael Carroll argues that the current term of protection is too long. Although the other witnesses did not propose extension of copyright, it should be noted that Rick Carnes, President of the Songwriters Guild of America, asserts that the current copyright term in the United States is appropriate and should not be shortened. Although he devotes only a single paragraph to the issue of copyright term, his written testimony nonetheless contains statements that are misleading or untrue.

Myth 1: The current copyright term represents the international standard.
Mr. Carnes’ written testimony asserts that “suggestions that the United States should break with the rest of the world to reduce the current term of copyright protection (designed specifically to allow creators to address the economic welfare of their families for a time period limited basically to the lives of their grandchildren) in order to stimulate ‘faster growth of the public domain’ should be rejected outright.”

Fact: The copyright term in the United States extends well beyond the Berne Convention’s standard and beyond the term of protection in the majority of countries.
Many countries’ copyright terms are set by the international agreements to which they are bound. The Berne Convention sets the minimum copyright term as the life of the author plus fifty years. The current term of protection in the United States is set at a period of the life of the author plus an additional seventy years. For corporate works or “works for hire,” the period of protection is set at ninety-five years. These terms far exceed what is required by international law.

Reducing the copyright term to the Berne standard would not “break with the rest of the world” as suggested by Mr. Carnes. The vast majority of countries use the Berne standard of life plus fifty years; there are almost twice as many countries with a period of protection shorter than the current term in the United States than there are countries with a period of life plus seventy years or greater.

Myth 2: The U.S. Copyright Office considers the current copyright term as proper.
Mr. Carnes’ written testimony asserts that the “U.S. Copyright Office, Congress and the United States Supreme Court have considered this issue on numerous occasions and determined that the current term of copyright protection established under Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution is not only proper, but serves the dual purpose of supporting the marketplace of ideas by encouraging professional creativity and bolstering the U.S. economy and balance of trade as well.”

Fact: The U.S. Copyright Office has questioned the value of a lengthy copyright term.
As noted in the LCA statement, Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante has suggested that the current copyright term in the United States may not be beneficial. Ms. Pallante noted in a 2013 speech:

The benefits of a lengthy term are meaningless if the current owner of the work cannot be identified or cannot be located. Often times, this is complicated by the fact that the current owner is not the author or even the author’s children or grandchildren. As the Copyright Office recognized in one of its key revision studies of the 1950s, it seems questionable whether copyright term should be extended to benefit remote heirs or assignees, “long after the purpose of the protection has been achieved.”

The Copyright Office has clearly expressed its concerns regarding copyright terms extending well beyond the life of the author and Mr. Carnes’ assertion that the Copyright Office has determined that a period of life plus seventy years is appropriate is simply untrue.

Further, in recognition of the harms that the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act has caused, Ms. Pallante has proposed the reintroduction of formalities for the last twenty years of protection.

Myth 3: The Supreme Court has determined the current copyright term is proper.
Mr. Carnes also asserts that the Supreme Court has endorsed the present copyright term as proper, a misreading of Eldred v. Ashcroft.

Fact: The Supreme Court never addressed the question of whether a period of protection of life plus seventy years was appropriate. The Court only upheld the power of Congress to set the term and extend the term retroactively.
The majority opinion in Eldred, while upholding the Copyright Term Extension Act, never addressed the propriety or benefits of the extension itself. Instead, the court addressed “the authority the Constitution assigns to Congress to prescribe the duration of copyrights.” As Justice Stevens’ dissent further points out, the question of “whether the extraordinary length of the grants authorized by the 1998 Act are invalid because they are the functional equivalent of perpetual copyrights is a question that need not be answered in this case because the question presented by the certiorari petition merely challenges Congress’ power to extend retroactively the terms of existing copyrights.”

The Court, by a 7-2 margin, interpreted the term “limited Times” as meaning “confined within certain bounds, “restrained,” or “circumscribed” and found that extending the copyright term by twenty years did not exceed this prescription. The majority then noted that on the question of whether the extension was a “rational exercise of legislative authority conferred by the Copyright Clause … we defer substantially to Congress.” The Court went on to state that the act “reflects judgments of a kind Congress typically makes, judgments we cannot dismiss as outside the Legislature’s domain.” Justice Stevens’ dissent notes that, “Fairly read, the Court has stated that congress’ actions under the Copyright/Patent Clause are, for all intent and purposes, judicially unreviewable.”

Notably, the Court states that in finding that the extension was a rational exercise of authority, “we are not at liberty to second-guess congressional determinations and policy judgments of this order, however debatable or arguably unwise they may be.” The majority never decides whether the extension to the present term of life plus seventy is appropriate and could, arguably, be interpreted as suggesting that the extension might be unwise.

While neither the majority nor Justice Steven’s dissent address the appropriateness of the copyright term extension, Justice Breyer’s dissent vigorously opposes the extension as violating the Constitutional rationale of the intellectual property system:

The economic effect of this 20-year extension—the longest blanket extension since the Nation’s founding—is to make the copyright term not limited, but virtually perpetual. Its primary legal effect is to grant the extended term not to authors, but their heirs, estates or corporate successors. And most importantly, its practical effect is not to promote, but to inhibit, the progress of “Science”—by which word the Framers meant learning or knowledge.