Supreme Court Upholds Uruguay Round Agreements Act

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On January 18, 2012 the supreme court upheld the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA).  The decision was made 6-2 (with Justice Kagan taking no part in the decision).

The URAA extends copyright protection to works which were once part of the public domain.  The musical works at issue in this case, having been in the public domain, were performed freely around the United States.  With the passage of the URAA orchestras must pay for something which they had enjoyed freely for many years; an “orchestra that once could perform ‘Peter and the Wolf . . . free of charge’” now much pay for such a privilege.  The act has had far reaching consequences within the orchestral community and has caused prices on some compositions to increase seven-times.

It is feared (as mentioned in the dissenting opinion) that these restored copyrights will effect efforts of historical societies to gather and catalog aging films.

Source: GOLAN V. HOLDER (10-545)