Golan v. Holder Decided

October 7, 2011

Whether the government may extend copyright protection to expressive material — including books, music, and movies — that was previously available in the public domain.

In 1994, Congress extended copyright protection to foreign works that were previously ineligible for copyright protection and were thus freely available in the public domain. The statute covers, among others, works by Stravinksy, Shostakovich, T.S. Eliot, Alfred Hitchcock and Picasso. The ACLU submitted an amicus brief arguing that the 1994 law should be subject to First Amendment scrutiny because, as the lower court explained, "it transformed the ordinary process of copyright protection and contravened a bedrock principle of copyright law that works in the public domain remain in the public domain."

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