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Supreme Court Deciding Whether Congress May Copyright Public Domain Works

Publication Date: 
March 07, 2011
David Kravets

Lecturer Anthony Falzone, in his role as executive director of the Fair Use Project, was instrumental in getting the case of Golan v. Holder to the Supreme Court. The case asks whether or not Congress can give copyright protection to works that have been placed in the public domain. David Kravets published the following story in Wired magazine:

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether Congress may take works out of the public domain and grant them copyright status.

A federal appeals panel, reversing a lower court, ruled in July against a group of orchestra conductors, educators, performers, publishers, film archivists and motion picture distributors who have relied on artistic works in the public domain for their livelihoods. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set aside arguments that their First Amendment rights were breached because they could no longer exploit the works without paying royalties.


Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project and Stanford University and a plaintiff’s lawyer in the case, urged the justices to take the case.

“The point of copyright protection is to encourage people to create things that will ultimately belong to the public. While the scope and duration of copyright protection has changed over time, one aspect of the copyright system has remained consistent: once a work is placed in the public domain, it belongs to the public, and remains the property of the public – free for anyone to use for any purpose,” he wrote in a blog post.

Here are links to the court record in the case.