Revoking the Public Domain?
December 3, 2004
Last week, a group of legal experts appealed the DC District Court’s recent decision in Luck’s Music Library, Inc. v. Ashcroft. The ruling upheld a section of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA) which granted copyright extensions to some foreign works that had previously been in the US public domain. The URAA, which became law in 1994, implemented changes agreed on through trade negotiations updating the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The Appellants’ brief, filed last week, argues that Section 514 of the URAA violates the Intellectual Property Clause of the US Constitution, which requires that all works protected by copyright eventually to become dedicated to the public domain. The brief also argues that public domain, once granted, cannot constitutionally be revoked. The copyright extensions in the URAA have removed thousands, potentially millions, of works from the public domain, inhibiting many previously legitimate uses.