Golan v. Holder: Should Shostakovich be Public Domain?

I am happy to announce that IMSLP will be submitting an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case Golan v. Holder, a case challenging the constitutionality of copyright restoration under Section 514 of the URAA.  A group of Harvard Law School students led by Phillip Hill (HLS ’13) and supervised by Professor Charles Nesson will be representing IMSLP.

IMSLP will be supporting the petitioners, which includes a group of orchestra conductors, educators, performers, film archivists, and motion picture distributors.  If we prevail and URAA § 514 is struck down as unconstitutional, all of Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Stravinsky (among others) will be public domain in the U.S., and potentially available on IMSLP.

In fact, the music of these three composers was public domain before URAA § 514 restored copyright in 1995.  This restoration is very dangerous precedent: Congress believes it has the power to usurp the public domain for the benefit of a few copyright holders, despite the Constitution limiting copyright to “limited Times”.  This limitation would seem meaningless if Congress could restore copyright whenever it wants.  If we allow URAA § 514 to stand, we would be one big step closer to perpetual copyright.

Furthermore, URAA § 514 also tramples on the right to freedom of speech of all artists who relied on these works before the copyright was restored, by forcing them to retract and make unavailable derivative works that were created legally.

IMSLP greatly welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision to take up such an important case, and hope to see an affirmation of the strength and vitality of the public domain.

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