Golan v. Holder: U.S. Supreme Court affirms that copyright can be extended to foreign works once in public domain

 On 18 January 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld U.S. Congress’s right to extend copyright protection to millions of books, films and musical compositions by foreign artists that once were free for public use, affirming the decision of the 10th Circuit and upholding the restoration legislation. The decision can be found here.

U.S. Congress granted the copyright restoration in 1994, in order to comply with U.S. obligations under TRIPS. But concerns arose that when it removed works from the public domain, Congress violated the free speech rights of users of the works. Lawrence Golan, a University professor, challenged the law on behalf of conductors, academics and film historians. Golan was supported by librarians and corporations such as Google.
 
In the recent 6 to 2 decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said U.S. Congress was acting “comfortably” within its powers when it extended copyright protection to foreign artists under treaty obligations that gave U.S. artists the same rights. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the challenge from orchestra conductors, educators, performers and others that Congress’s action violated the Constitution’s copyright clause and the First Amendment’s guarantee of free expression. 
 
The case, considered to be one of the most important intellectual property law issues to be addressed in 2012, is Golan v. Holder. Further information on the Golan v. Holder case can be found here. An electronic copy of the amicus curiae brief, which was filed (inter alia) by IPA, STM, CCC and IFRRO in August 2011 with the U.S. Court, is available here.