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Supreme Court rules public domain isn't permanent, says Congress can re-copyright some international works (update)

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If you've been enjoying the fireworks over PIPA and SOPA these past weeks, get ready for more intellectual property ugliness. The US Supreme Court handed down a decision in Golan v. Holder Wednesday granting Congress the power to restore copyright claims on works that had entered the public domain. The six to two decision (with only the conservative Samuel Alito and liberal Stephen Breyer dissenting) was issued primarily with an eye towards bringing the country in line with an international treaty known as the Berne Convention. The plaintiffs in the case included orchestra conductors, educators, performers and archivists who rely on public domain works such as Fritz Lang's Metropolis and compositions from Igor Stravinsky. Many orchestras, including that of lead plaintiff Lawrence Golan, will now be forced to stop performing works that are a regular part of their repertoire due to licensing fees. Hit up the more coverage link for the complete (PDF) decision.

Update: To be clear, this decision upheld a statute granting copyright protection to a bundle of international works that were placed in the public domain (and therefore denied copyright protection) under previous US laws.



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