In June 2011, FMC signed onto an amicus (friend of the court) brief in Golan v. Holder, a case currently pending at the Supreme Court. The case challenges Congress’s implementation of the Uruguay Round of Agreements Act (URAA), which removes some works created by foreign authors from the US public domain and restores their copyright protections. Congress enacted this law in order to comply with an international trade agreement called the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
Co-signers include such groups such as the American Music Center, Chorus America, Fractured Atlas, the National Association for Media Arts and Culture, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, and the National Performance Network, as well as academics and individual creators like Jonathan Lethem and Michael Chabon.
In Golan v. Holder, numerous parties (including orchestra conductors, educators, performers, publishers, film archivists and motion picture distributors) challenged the provisions of the URAA that remove works from the public domain. They argue that Section 514 of the URAA is unconstitutional because it violates their First Amendment rights of free expression. When the foreign works were in the public domain, these parties were free to use them in performances, incorporate them into their own projects, or use them as building blocks to create new works. When the URAA removed the works from the public domain, these “reliance parties” (authors who relied on those works being free to use) were left with few options. Basically, they could either refrain from using the foreign works or pay for the use they originally believed would be free.
FMC believes that the public domain is important to musicians and other creators and performers who draw upon the public domain for their own creative expression. If the Supreme Court decides that Congress can take works out of the public domain, it could set a precedent for future attempts to further deplete it.