Supreme Court Rules Congress May ‘Re-Copyright’ Public Domain Works

719646029Decades or centuries after its creator has passed on to another realm, a piece of art or film or literature may remain copyrighted content, perhaps forever, the Supreme Court has ruled. Ars Technica reports:

Congress may take books, musical compositions and other works out of the public domain, where they can be freely used and adapted, and grant them copyright status again, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday. In a 6-2 ruling, the court ruled that just because material enters the public domain, it is not “territory that works may never exit.”

The top court was ruling on a petition by a group of orchestra conductors, educators, performers, publishers and film archivists who urged the justices to reverse an appellate court that ruled against the group, which has relied on artistic works in the public domain for their livelihoods.

They claimed that re-copyrighting public works would breach the speech rights of those who are now using those works without needing a license. There are millions of decades-old works at issue. Some of the well-known ones include H.G. Wells’ Things to Come; Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and the musical compositions of Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky.

12 Comments on "Supreme Court Rules Congress May ‘Re-Copyright’ Public Domain Works"

  1. Fuck copyright, here and abroad.

  2. Culture is already festered into an uncontrollable mass. But they’re going to try their damndest to regain control again. They’ll never learn that they can never put something back into the primordial soup of ideas (until they shut down the internet of course).

  3. Anarchy Pony | Jan 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm |

    So now were going to have to pay to hum Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries?

  4. Project Gutenberg will not like this…

  5. Wow, it looks like we are really entering a war between freedom and repression. 

    • Mr Willow | Jan 23, 2012 at 6:18 pm |

      Looks like we’re entering? 

      We’ve been going down that road for a while now. 

  6. Tio Holtzman | Jan 23, 2012 at 3:31 pm |

    Carnivals, circuses, and clowns can’t afford this to happen!

  7. Copyright laws are so fucking absurd and this is just another great example of how much value from innovation and creativity is getting systematically annihilated by only the 3 groups, connected at the hip, who enrich themselves from these disgusting laws: 

    1. Owners of the copyrighted material: bankstas/corporate scum/other illegitimate billionaires that sucked the economy dry for their own sociopathic private enrichment that can actually afford to sue people that want to put the copyrighted material to work without paying for whatever illegitimate usage rights so it’ll actually have some use and hence value in this world instead of gaining fucking copyright usage fees/violation settlement mullah and/or eliminating all competition for an idea whose benefit value ranges from marginally beneficial to an exponential improvement in the whole world’s standard of living.

    2. Copyright lawyers whose entire careers are about settling these criminal copyright law disputes in court.

    3. Sociopathic misanthropic soulless senators that sold their soul many many times over to pass copyright laws like this one in various disgusting, manipulative methods (like hiding these copyright laws in a multi-hundred page mega-act with thousands of new laws that needed to be “updated” since WWII)

    it’s a 3 headed monster that keeps feeding on the collective innovation and creativity of the world while suppressing everyone’s standard of living by preventing bringing those innovations/creations’ value to life.

  8. I bet Disney was in the back pocket of those six judges… Some of the old Disney cartoons are coming up to the end of copyright (again), so now this will mean not a second of any Disney film will see the light of public domain. What is this world coming to???

  9. This has to do with the fact that the works in question are still under copyright in their home countries. If I’m not mistaken, foreign rights holders used to have to be proactive and renew their copyright in the US on a certain year, which was kind of weird if you consider the logistics. It was the 20th century, and it wasn’t necessarily easy for someone in someone in, say, Germany to know that they would need to file certain papers in America a specific number of years after the work was created. So, Congress moved those works back into copyright to comply with international treaties. 

    The real issue, I think, is that copyright keeps getting extended way beyond the lifetime of the original artist. In the UK I think it’s something like 90 years–you still can’t publish stuff Aleister Crowley wrote in the 19th century. 

    And as long as there are corporate interests like Disney with strong interests in holding onto their IP rights for as long as possible, I don’t think the public has much to look forward to.  

  10. Easy, Killer... | Jan 25, 2012 at 5:08 pm |

    do they not realize that they use these same public-domains for the cites in speeches as well as bills?

  11. Robin Hood | Feb 3, 2012 at 11:34 pm |

    This is impossible and regardless what they say, it holds no lawful ground. 

    If I use a book in the public domain that has fallen out of copyright, how can anyone but the author then decide to copyright, that is simply put “theft” 

    Where is the permission of the original author and their consent? Its impossible if they have passed away, whatever they say it just cant have a lawful ground. 

    Everyone will continue to use public domain material, it is the public’s not some financially driven corperation. 

    Peace and love

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