Golan v. Holder, 565 U.S. ___ (2012), was a United States Supreme Court case case originally filed in 2001 challenging the constitutionality of the application of Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, a treaty seeking to equalize copyright protection on an international basis. In the United States, the Act restored copyright status to foreign works previously in the public domain. The two main arguments against the application of the Act in the case were that restoring copyright violates the “limited time” language of the United States Constitution‘s Copyright Clause, and that restoring to copyright works that had passed into the public domain interferes with the peoples’ First Amendment right to use, copy and otherwise exploit the works and to freely express themselves through these works, thus also violating the Constitution’s Copyright Clause.
The US Supreme Court held on January 18, 2012 that Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act does not exceed Congress’s authority under the Copyright Clause, and the court affirmed the judgment of the lower court by 6-2, with the opinion written by Justice Ginsburg. The practical effect of the decision is that works that were once free to use, such as Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, are no longer in the public domain, with the result that if used, are now subject to use only with the permission of the copyright holder, such as in paid licensing rather than without compensation to the copyright holder.Fulvio Sarzana
Studio Legale Roma Sarzana & Associati