Monday, June 13, 2005
Plaintiffs Luck's Music Library and Moviecraft had challenged the constitutionality of section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA) which "establishes copyrights of foreign holders whose works, though protected under the law where intitially published, fell into the public domain in the United States for a variety of reasons--the U. S. failed to recognize copyrights of a particular nation, the copyright owner failed to comply with formalities of U. S. copyright law, or, in the case of sound recordings "fixed" before February 15, 1972, federal copyright protection had been unavailable." The plaintiffs objected that "copyright laws that remove works from the public domain `do not provide significant incentives for new creations', instead rewarding stagnation or disincentives to create new work (the argument advanced in Eldred) and argued that the statute violated the Copyright and Patent Clause of the Constitution. The district court dismissed and the plaintiffs appealed.
Upon hearing this argument, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reasoned that although changes in legislation would not affect "the structure of incentives for works already created," it would affect the incentives for those considering future creations. "All else equal, the expected benefits of creating new works are greater if Congress can remedy the loss of copyright protection for works that have falled accidentally into the public domain."
The plaintiffs also advanced other arguments, which the court failed to accept, including that Congress had never authorized giving copyright to works already in the public domain. But the court indicated that under two statutes (the Act of 1919 and the Act of 1941) the Congress had done exactly that.
Read the entire opinion here.