Thursday, January 19, 2012

Supreme Court Rules on Public Domain

While most eyes were on the anti-SOPA and PIPA protests yesterday, the Supreme Court issued an important ruling in a key copyright case, Golan v. Holder. The 6-justice majority (Ginsburg, Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Sotomayor, and Kennedy) held that Congress has the power to remove works from the public domain and return them to copyright protection, which they did in a 1994 law (and thus, could do again if they felt like it). In dissent, Justices Breyer and Alito strongly disagreed, and their opinion merits a close read.

SCOTUSblog's Golan v. Holder page has links to all the relevant documents, including the opinions, a transcript of the oral argument, and all the amicus briefs, including one jointly filed by the ALA, ARL, Internet Archive, University of Michigan, and the Wikimedia Foundation which lays out in stark detail just how important this case is for the future of our understanding of copyright law in general and public domain works in particular. They've also got a very useful summary of the decision.

Coverage from the New York Times, Washington Post, Chronicle of Higher Ed, Associated Press, Techdirt. The latter is a particularly good synopsis, and I agree with their conclusion that the majority opinion simply doesn't seem to take into account how copyright law operates today.

[Update: Another important piece on this, from Kevin Smith at Duke, "Losing Our Focus"]

1 comment:

DangAndBlast! said...

Thanks for the summary- IP law fascinates (and frustrates) me.