Copyright Law Challenged

Anthony Falzone, Executive Director of the Fair Use Project, is quoted by Jess Barvin in the below Wall Street Journal article on the case of Golan v. Holder, and how because "foreign authors didn't have copyrights at the outset, Congress can't extend them now."

Supreme Court justices riffed on artists from Shostakovich to Jimi Hendrix in arguments Wednesday about whether Congress can grant copyrights to works by foreign authors never before protected in the U.S.

The potential stakes are huge, and again pit old industry against new. The publishing and movie industries say that robust enforcement of foreign copyrights in the U.S. is essential to ensuring reciprocal protection of their copyrights overseas. But Google Inc., which has digitized millions of public domain works and placed them online, says its investment could be jeopardized, and public access to important books, music and art impeded, if the government prevails.

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The Constitution authorizes Congress to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." The plaintiffs' attorney, Anthony Falzone of Stanford Law School, said that once a copyright's "limited time" expires, a work permanently enters the public domain. But because the foreign authors didn't have copyrights at the outset, he argued, Congress can't extend them now.