132 S. Ct. 873
Petitioners, who were reproducers of foreign works in the public domain, brought an action against respondent U.S. Attorney General alleging that §514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, which had granted copyright protection to the foreign works, was unconstitutional.
The reproducers were granted certiorari, and appealed the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit which ruled that §514 did not violate the U.S. Constitution.
The reproducers argued that §514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, which allowed copyrights to works in the public domain, exceeded the copyright authority of Congress under Article I of the U.S. Constitution, § 8, cl. 8.
It was also argued that granting the copyrights to works which were previously reproduced without limit had violated the reproducers rights to free speech under the First Amendment.
The U.S. Supreme Court held that §514 was valid and had properly implemented an international treaty that was aimed to protect the foreign works.
The congressional authority to regulate copyright protection did not exclude application of such protection to works in the public domain nor did it require that works remain in the public domain. The requirement that the term of a copyright be limited remained applicable after the copyrights were granted.
Also, the historical practice of Congress included the protection of works that were previously unprotected, and the copyrights themselves served the objectives of constitutional copyright authority. Also, the idea/expression distinction and the fair use doctrine served as accommodations to the reproducers' freedom of speech.
The reproducers had no vested rights in works in the public domain which were not subject to ownership rights.
CONCLUSION: The court affirmed the judgment upholding the constitutionality of §514. 6-2 Decision; 1 Dissent.
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