The Anti-Bootlegging Provisions: Congressional Power and Constitutional Limitations
Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law, Vol. 13, No. 2, Winter 2011
67 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2012
Date Written: January 1, 2011
Courts and scholars have considered the constitutional validity of 17 U.S.C. § 1101 (civil), and 18 U.S.C. § 2319A (criminal), known as “the anti-bootlegging provisions.” These provisions prohibit unauthorized recording, copying and distribution of live musical performances. The provisions have been challenged in three cases, resulting in five different published opinions. Two district court opinions held the provisions unconstitutional, but subsequent opinions vacated those decisions. Notwithstanding a sharp division among copyright scholars, the courts have upheld these provisions. The discussion surrounding these provisions demonstrates a continuing struggle to ascertain limits on congressional power to regulate copying and distribution of expression. The latest decision in this area, United States v. Martignon, 492 F.3d 140 (2d Cir. 2007), found that Congress had the power to enact § 2319A, but left two major issues unresolved. First, it only considered the constitutionality of the criminal provision, and its analysis calls into doubt the constitutionality of the companion civil anti-bootlegging provision that was not before the court. Second, Martignon did not consider the first amendment free speech challenge to the statute and remanded the case for consideration of that issue.
This article demonstrates that the Constitution firmly supports Congress’s power to enact the anti-bootlegging provisions as an exercise of the Commerce Clause, which does not conflict with the Copyright Clause, and does not violate the First Amendment.
Keywords: copyright, anti-bootlegging, commerce clause
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