U.S. Supreme Court

ABA Brief Supports Recopyright Law Against First Amendment Challenge


The ABA has filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court that opposes the arguments of a Denver music conductor who wants his orchestras to perform foreign works that were once in the public domain.

University of Denver music professor Lawrence Golan joined with other plaintiffs to challenge a 1994 recopyright law that removed thousands of foreign works from the public domain and gave them copyright protection. The measure, Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, was enacted to help the United States comply with international treaties protecting the copyrights of American works.

The ABA brief supports the power of Congress to implement treaty obligations, according to a press release. “It is important for the United States to comply with the international treaties that this country has ratified, and to do so in a way that does not encourage other countries to disregard their obligations under those treaties,” the ABA argues in the brief (PDF).

The ABA says Congress had the authority under the plain language of the copyright clause to remove the works from the public domain. The association also argues the law does not violate the First Amendment rights of those who wish to use them. “Nothing in Section 514 prevents anyone from making ‘fair use’ of the copyrighted materials—or availing themselves of other exceptions in the copyright law geared towards educational, scholarly and other uses,” the brief says.

The case is Golan v. Holder.

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