Public Domain Victory in Golan v. Holder

In a victory for public domain advocates, United States District Court Judge for the District of Colorado Lewis T. Babcock has ruled in Golan v. Holder (previously Golan v. Gonzales) that the restoration of copyright to certain foreign works formerly in the U.S public domain that resulted from Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act violates the First Amendment.

Here's an excerpt from the ruling:

Congress has a legitimate interest in complying with the terms of the Berne Convention. The Berne Convention, however, affords each member nation discretion to restore the copyrights of foreign authors in a manner consistent with that member nation's own body of copyright law. In the United States, that body of law includes the bedrock principle that works in the public domain remain in the public domain. Removing works from the public domain violated Plaintiffs' vested First Amendment interests. In light of the discretion afforded it by the Berne Convention, Congress could have complied with the Convention without interfering with Plaintiffs' protected speech. Accordingly—to the extent Section 514 suppresses the right of reliance parties to use works they exploited while the works were in the public domain—Section 514 is substantially broader than necessary to achieve the Government's interest.

On the basis of the record before the Court, I conclude no evidence exists showing whether the Government's two additional justifications for implementing Section 514—Section 514 helps protect the copyright interests of United States authors abroad; and Section 514 corrects for historic inequities wrought on foreign authors who lost their United States copyrights through no fault of their own—constitute important Government interests, or whether Section 514 is narrowly tailored to meet those interests.

Read more about it in “Court Rules Part Of Copyright Act Unconstitutional” and “URAA Held Unconstitutional.”