Re-Copyright Public Domain Works

Supreme Court rules Congress can re-copyright public domain works

Public DomainIn a six to two ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that 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. Just because material enters the public domain, it is not “territory that works may never exit,” the Supreme Court ruled on January 18, 2012...

Therefore decades or even 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 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.

Read the complete Supreme Court ruling here.

It’s not the first time the Supreme Court has approved the extension of copyrights. The last time was in 2002, when it upheld Congress’ move to extend copyright from the life of an author plus 50 years after death to 70 years after death.