Supreme Court Upholds Restoration of U.S. Copyright Protection for Foreign Works in the Public Domain


If you confront the question whether a foreign book, movie, song, artistic work, or other work of authorship is still in copyright in the U.S. or whether such a foreign work is being infringed in the United States, take note of a major new Supreme Court decision, Golan v. Holder.

In Golan, the Court upheld a 1994 statute "restoring" the copyright in certain foreign works that hadn't previously been protected in this country. The statute, the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA 2, shifted three categories of works out of the public domain and into U.S. copyright: (1) works from countries that lacked copyright reciprocity with the United States when first published, (2) works where the foreign author had failed to observe "formalities" previously required in the United States, such as affixing a copyright notice, and (3) foreign sound recordings made before U.S. copyright law began protecting them in 1972.

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