Can Public Domain Works be re-Copyrighted?

The Supreme Court looks to answer that question when they take up Golan v. Holder this fall.

The Supreme Court says it will hear a case considering whether public domain works can be pushed back into the copyright closet. And advocacy groups say that free speech is at stake in this fight. Congress’ decision to uphold an international treaty allowing for public works to be "restored" into copyright will create an atmosphere of uncertainty for libraries, they warn, caretakers of the public domain.

Traditionally, once a US work enters the public domain it is forever in the public domain. Things recently got a bit more complicated with foreign works, however, when Congress took to uphold Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act. Under that international agreement, the U.S. agreed to restore copyright protection for works that had previously entered the U.S. public domain if they were still protected by copyright in their country of origin.

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