×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Supreme Court upholds copyright law

Affirms return of copyright to foreign works once in public domain

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld Congress’ ability to extent copyright protection to works by foreign artists and authors that were previously in the public domain.

The high court ruled 6 to 2, with Justice Elena Kagan recusing herself.

“Nothing in the historical record, congressional practice or our own jurisprudence warrants exceptional First Amendment solicitude for copyrighted works that were once in the public domain,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the majority opinion.

Orchestra conductors, educators and homevid distributors challenged the constitutionality of a 1994 act of Congress that restored the copyrights, bringing it in line with earlier trade agreements. Perhaps millions of works were covered, and they had argued that the “entry of a work into the public domain must mark the end of protection, not an intermission.”

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, after the law was passed, notices were filed to restore copyrights on almost 50,000 works, including such Alfred Hitchcock titles as “The 39 Steps” and “The Lady Vanishes,” Carol Reed classic “The Third Man” and a host of musical works and Mexican and Latin American films.

The content industry generally favored the restoration of copyrights. The MPAA filed an amicus brief in which it said that U.S. copyright holders could face “retaliatory measures” if the law was overturned, and the U.S. therefore did not honor the 1994 treaty and the Berne Convention, the international agreement in which countries recognize the copyright of works from other signatory countries.

“In aligning the United States with other nations bound by the Berne Convention, and thereby according equitable treatment to once disfavored foreign authors, Congress can hardly be charged with a design to move stealthily toward a regime of perpetual copyrights,” Ginsburg wrote.

More Film

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Robert Iger's Pay 'Naked Indecency' in Op-Ed

    After stirring a flurry of reactions over her Tweets calling out wage inequality at the Walt Disney Co. on Sunday, Abigail Disney, a filmmaker and philanthropist who is the grand niece of Walt Disney, penned an opinion column outlining her arguments against Disney’s pay practices. In her op-ed, which was published in the Washington Post [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame' Reaps $90 Million in China by Late Afternoon of Opening Day

    “Avengers: Endgame” is already breaking records in China, raking in $89.6 million (RMB602 million) as of 5 p.m. on opening day Wednesday – two days ahead of the U.S. – and putting itself firmly on track to become the biggest Hollywood title ever in the Middle Kingdom. The Marvel finale has already set a new [...]

  • ‘The Gift: The Journey of Johnny

    Film Review: ‘The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash’

    Very much in the manner of an “unplugged” acoustic album that showcases the musicianship of a major artist without distracting flash and filigree, “The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash” is a tightly focused yet impressively multifaceted documentary that attempts nothing less than to delve past familiar myths and illuminate the soul of its fabled [...]

  • Emily Morgan Cormac Fox Gregoire Debailly

    European Film Promotion Reveals 2019's Producers on the Move

    Twenty of Europe’s up-and-coming producers are going to Cannes with European Film Promotion. The organization unveiled its latest roster of Producers on the Move on Wednesday, a lineup that features France’s Gregoire Debailly, who produced Jean-Bernard Marlin’s “Sheherazade,” which premiered in Critics’ Week in Cannes last year, and Ireland’s Cormac Fox, who produced Sophie Hyde’s [...]

  • Avengers EndGame Trailer

    ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Marvel claims the top spot in spending with “Avengers: Endgame.” Ads placed for the superhero film had an estimated media value of $6.28 million through Sunday for 927 national ad airings on 39 networks. (Spend figures [...]

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    Netflix Can Chill: Academy Rules No Change in Streaming Oscar Eligibility

    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will not change eligibility rules for the Oscars, despite speculation that streaming companies might see a crackdown on their release practices when pursuing golden trophies. A board of governors meeting on Tuesday voted to maintain the status quo, that any feature-length film can be considered for the [...]

  • Aniara review

    Film Review: 'Aniara'

    Each year brings an example or three of purported “thinking person’s science-fiction” films, a category that pretty much embraces anything not centered on monsters or lightsaber battles. These efforts are often more admirable in theory than result, but “Aniara” — the first film drawn from Nobel Prize-winning Swedish poet Harry Martinson’s 1956 cycle of 103 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content