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Golan v. Holder

The FUP filed this suit on behalf of a University of Denver conductor and others, challenging Congress’s restoration of copyright to works that had entered the public domain.

In 1994, Congress passed a law that removed a vast body of foreign works from the public domain.  Congress took the rights in these works from the American public and handed them over to foreign authors and their heirs in the express hope that foreign countries would reciprocate by giving U.S. copyright owners new rights in works that were in the public domains of those foreign countries.  In other words, Congress decided to give away the public's property—and the important speech and expression rights that go with it—in the hope this might put more money in the pocket of U.S. copyright owners.

In 2001, representing conductor Lawrence Golan and others, we brought a constitutional challenge to this law.  After years of litigation, the case came before the United States Supreme Court in 2011.  Before the Court, we urged that the Constitution does not allow Congress to privatize the public domain and that, by doing so, it violated the First Amendment rights of our clients and the American public.  We expect a decision from the Supreme Court early this year.