Court Upholds Copyright Law

Millions of public-domain works by foreign artists were recently granted copyright protection through a Supreme Court decision.

Justices ruled 6-2 Jan. 18 in favor of a congressional law that sought to extend protection to old works that were in the public domain or had never been copyrighted in the U.S.

“Neither congressional practice nor our decisions treat the public domain, in any and all cases, as untouchable by copyright legislation,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in an opinion. “The first amendment likewise provides no exceptional solicitude for works in the public domain.”

The law will require people to ask permission or pay royalties before using such works and community orchestras and academics have challenged the measure, claiming they’ll be priced out of performing works by composers such as Stravinsky and Shostakovich.