The question: If a foreign movie, painting, song, or book is already in the public domain, then can it get copyright protection?
The answer: Hoping to comply with international law, the Congress said foreign work that was unprotected and in the public domain could be copyrighted.
The Response: Groups that depend on the public domain for their work believe that Congress’s decision is unconstitutional. Orchestra conductors, community theater groups, Google, video distributors, indeed a host of groups said the expense of using a copyrighted piece could prevent them from doing their jobs.
The Supreme Court just heard the oral arguments.
Here is a legal analysis of the case.
The Economic Lesson
2 parts of the Constitution directly relate:
- Article 1 Section 8: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and discoveries.”
- The First Amendment: Congress shall make no law …abridging the freedom of speech…
An Economic Question: How might property rights help and hinder innovation?