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Can public domain works be "restored" into copyright?

The US Supreme Court will says it will hear a case considering whether public domain works can be "re-copyrighted." And advocacy groups say that free speech is at stake in this fight. Congress' decision to uphold an international treaty allowing for public works to be "restored" into copyright will create an atmosphere of uncertainty for libraries, they warn, caretakers of the public domain.

"Because it protects our cultural commons, the public domain is equally essential, in turn, to free speech, helping to give meaning to the First Amendment right to receive information," wrote the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Internet Archive in a brief asking the Supremes to hear the matter.

"Given the large number of works in the collections of US libraries, libraries must reasonably fear that they could be sued multiple times if they continued to provide access to the materials in their collections that might be withdrawn from the public domain."

The case, scheduled for next fall, is Golan v. Holder (formerly Golan v. Gonzales). Lawrence Golan is a symphony conductor who availed himself of some manuscripts of the composer Sergei Prokofiev—that is until they reverted back into copyright, thanks to Congress's upholding Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act.

Read the full article on ArsTechica. [9mar11]

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