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

Ryan Kaldari rkaldari at wikimedia.org
Thu Jun 23 22:02:12 UTC 2011

It's based on the template transclusion count here:

Ryan Kaldari

On 6/23/11 1:01 PM, teun spaans wrote:
> The number of 3 million surpises me.  Common hosts about 10 million items.
> Are you certain this amount is approximately correct?
> On Wed, Jun 22, 2011 at 8:40 PM, 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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