Supreme Court: Congress May Re-Copyright Public Domain Works

In an interesting decision today, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress has the power to re-copyright public domain works. I have not read the decision and I am not a legal expert, but I am concerned that this ruling, which as I understand it effectively prohibits public use of works such as composer Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and director Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, elevates international law above U.S. law and may amount to granting the government the power to dictate perpetual copyright terms. In dissent, Justices Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito said the upheld law goes against copyright theory and “does not encourage anyone to produce a single new work.” The dissenting judges note that copyright is part of the United States Constitution to promote the arts and sciences.

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