Friday, January 18, 2013

Putting public domain works back into copyright

Electronic Frontier Foundation has reminded us of another important copyright issue, a decision by the Supreme Court (in early 2013) in Golan v. Holder, upholding a law that removed many works by foreign authors from public domain and put them back under copyright protection. The article is “The Copyfight’s next stage: We all speak together,” here

I could note, with some slyness, that here an organization (which I regularly support with a trust contribution) is suggesting that individual speakers need to show some solidarity, and that almost sounds like an oxymoron.

According to Wikipedia, some of the intellectual property at issue includes some films, including :The 39 Steps” (Alfred Hitchcock), “Blackmal”, “Metropolis” (I haven’t reviewed this here but I saw it in Dallas in the early 1980s), and “The Third Man”.  It’s not hard to see that media corporations still see that they can make money from films like this.  (I  recently bought a hard-to-find DVD of a non-pd film “Saratoga Trunk" for my own screenwriting research purposes – and that makes the point that some of this material is valuable.
The document for the opinion is still readily available at the Supreme Court website, link here. The legislation at issue is the Uruguay Round Agreements Act of 1994 (USPTO link).

Nate Anderson had written a piece for Ars Technica in April 2009, “Court: Congress can’t put public domain back into copyright”.  But it certainly did.  

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