[Foundation-l] Amicus Brief Filed in Golan v. Holder: Fighting for the Public Domain

George Herbert george.herbert at gmail.com
Wed Jun 22 19:15:57 UTC 2011

I would like to personally thank the WMF staff and board for having
pursued this.

Good luck.

On Wed, Jun 22, 2011 at 11:40 AM, Geoff Brigham <gbrigham at wikimedia.org> wrote:
> Yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed an amicus
> ("friends of the court") brief in Golan v. Holder, a case of great
> importance before the Supreme Court that will affect our understanding of
> the public domain for years to come.  See
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golan_v._Holder.  The EFF is representing the
> Wikimedia Foundation in addition to the American Association of Libraries,
> the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Association of
> Research Libraries, the University of Michigan Dean of Libraries, and the
> Internet Archive.
> This case raises critical issues as to whether Congress may withdraw works
> from the public domain and throw them back under a copyright regime.  In
> 1994, in response to the U.S. joining of the Berne Convention, Congress
> granted copyright protection to a large body of foreign works that the
> Copyright Act had previously placed in the public domain.  Affected cultural
> goods probably number in the millions, including, for example, Metropolis
> (1927), The Third Man (1949), Prokofiev's Peter in the Wolf, music by
> Stravinsky, paintings by Picasso, drawings by M.C. Escher, films by Fellini,
> Hitchcock, and Renoir, and writings by George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, and
> J.R.R. Tolkien.
> The petitioners are orchestra conductors, educators, performers, film
> archivists, and motion picture distributors who depend upon the public
> domain for their livelihood.  They filed suit in 2001, pointing out that
> Congress exceeded its power under the Copyright Clause and the First
> Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  They eventually won at the district
> court level, but that decision was overturned on appeal in the Tenth
> Circuit.   The U.S. Supreme Court - which rarely grants review - did so
> here.
> Petitioners filed their brief last week, and you can find it here:
> http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/node/6684.  We are expecting a number of
> parties to file "friends of the court" briefs.   The EFF's brief can be
> found here:  http://www.eff.org/cases/golan-v-holder .
> The Wikimedia Foundation joined the EFF brief in light of the tremendously
> important role that the public domain plays in our mission to "collect and
> develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain,
> and to disseminate it effectively and globally."  We host millions of works
> in the public domain and are dependent on thousands of volunteers to search
> out and archive these works.  Wikimedia Commons alone boasts approximately 3
> million items in these cultural commons.  To put it bluntly, Congress cannot
> be permitted the power to remove such works from the public domain whenever
> it finds it suitable to do so.  It is not right - legally or morally.   The
> Copyright Clause expressly requires limits on copyright terms.  The First
> Amendment disallows theft from the creative commons.  Such works belong to
> our global knowledge.  For this reason, we join with the EFF and many others
> to encourage the Court to overturn a law that so threatens our public domain
> - not only with respect to the particular works at issue but also with
> respect to the bad precedent such a law would set for the future.
> We anticipate the Court will reach a decision sometime before July 2012.
> --
> Geoff Brigham
> General Counsel
> Wikimedia Foundation
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-george william herbert
george.herbert at gmail.com

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