Golan v. Holder

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: First Amendment
  • Date Filed: October 5, 2011
  • Case #: 10-545
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court Below: 609 F.3d 1076 (10th Cir. 2010)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the Copyright Clause and the First Amendment prohibit Congress from removing works that were previously placed in the public domain.

Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA) grants copyright protection to various foreign works that were previously in the public domain in the United States. Petitioners are orchestra conductors, educators, performers, and other artists who perform, sell, and distribute public domain works. Petitioners challenged Section 514 under First Amendment freedom of expression principles. The District Court granted Petitioner’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the suit. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit found in favor of Respondents after applying intermediate scrutiny to the “content-neutral” provision of URAA. It held that the law addressed an important governmental interest in securing protection of copyrighted material abroad, and was narrowly tailored to support the government’s interest.

On appeal, Petitioners argue that once works enter the public domain they cannot be removed. This is consistent with the fact that Congress has amended the copyright statutes several times to allow extensions of copyrights in order to prevent works from entering the public domain. These amendments recognized that once works enter the public domain, copyright protection can no longer be afforded to those works.

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