The once (and future?) public domain

According to SCOTUSblog, the Supreme Court has just agreed to hear a major case about the public domain:

The case involves a two-pronged constitutional challenge to a 1994 law, passed by Congress to implement the global agreement on trade in the so-called “Uruguay Round.”   First, the case tests whether the Copyright Clause gives Congress any authority to take a work out of the public domain — that is, to restore its copyright shield once that has expired.  Second, it tests whether the 1994 law at issue violates the free speech rights of those who, before the law was passed, freely performed or distributed works that had entered the public domain — such as Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf….The constitutional issues about the Berne Convention’s Article 18 on restoration were pressed in federal court by a group of orchestra conductors, educators, performers, film archivists, and motion picture distributors.  They contended that they have depended for years on public domain works, but were cut off from those opportunities when Congress restored a seemingly large number of U.S. copyrights for foreign works that never previously had U.S. protection.

SCOTUSblog is hosting a number of the related documents:

For a round-up of additional coverage, see:

  • PaidContent:  “Can You Re-Copyright Works That Fall Into Public Hands? High Court To Rule”
  • Patently-O:  “Copyright: Supreme Court to Hear Constitutional Challenge to Copyright Restoration”
  • Wired: “Supreme Court Deciding Whether Congress May Copyright Public Domain Works”

Stay tuned…