The Supreme Court heard arguments last week on the Golan v. Holder case. Lawrence Golan is a conductor based at the University of Denver who has been fighting the return of many international publications to the safe blankets of copyright protection. In short, works like Peter and Wolf and the Shostakovich symphonies had been in the public domain up until the ratification of the Uruguay Round Agreements about 10 years ago. These works were under copyright protection outside of the US. The Uruguay Round Agreements brought the US in line with Berne Convention adopted in Europe, thereby, removing them from their public domain status in the US.
Mr. Golan has presented this case to two lower courts over the past ten years, finally resulting in this Supreme Court appeal. His argument has been refashioned to call into question the permanence of public domain. Copyright protection exists for “limited time” according to Title 17 of the US Code. At no time in US history has a public domain work had its status yanked away from it and placed back under copyright protection. The resulting ruling in this case may revamp intellectual property rights in a big way. Stay tuned.