Oral argument: Oct. 5, 2011
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (June 21, 2010)
Congress enacted Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act in order to comply with the international copyright standards of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. Section 514 restores copyright protection to foreign works currently found in the public domain. Lawrence Golan and other performers, educators, and motion picture distributors brought this suit challenging Section 514, arguing that Congress’s removal of works from the public domain exceeded its Copyright Clause powers. Golan also argues that Section 514 violates the First Amendment because the law does not serve any important government interests. Attorney General Holder counters that the Copyright Clause does not restrict Congress’s authority to remove works from the public domain. He further argues that Section 514 does not violate the First Amendment because the government has a substantial interest in complying with the Berne Convention and protecting American works abroad. The Supreme Court’s decision will affect millions of foreign works currently in the public domain, existing and future works based on those foreign works, and the copyright protection of American works in foreign countries.