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Can You Re-Copyright Works That Fall Into Public Domain? High Court To Rule

“Copyrights do end—although these days, they’re so long
(95 years for most works) that you’d scarcely know it. Once a work
does fall into the public domain, can it be copyrighted again? In
1994, Congress effectively said “yes” when it passed a law that the
government argued was necessary to get the U.S. properly aligned
with the Berne Convention, an important international copyright
treaty. But a group of public-interest lawyers and small businesses
that use public-domain works have challenged the law, and today the
U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear their case.

“The works that will be affected by Golan v. Holder are all
foreign, and date from the earlier part of the 20th century. For
various reasons, they fell into the public domain in the
U.S.—but are still under copyright outside the U.S. In 1994,
Congress put the works back into copyrighted status, with the goal
of aligning U.S. and international copyright law in certain
ways.”


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