Eye on IP
Vol. No. 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
What Do Jimi Hendrix and Copyright Law Have in Common?
The late Jimi Hendrix took center stage at the Supreme Court last month as the country's high court heard arguments regarding whether Congress acted constitutionally when it restored copyright protection to foreign works that had once been in the public domain.
The 1994 law was part of an effort to implement the Berne Convention, a treaty that gives U.S. works reciprocal protection overseas. In the words of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Congress essentially decided that "Shostakovich should be treated just like Copland," referring to the 20th century Russian composer and his American contemporary.
As detailed by the Wall Street Journal, the lawsuit before the Supreme Court was filed by orchestra conductors, teachers, and film archivists who argue that they relied on the free availability of such works. They have challenged the law both for exceeding Congress's power to grant copyrights and for infringing their own First Amendment free speech rights.
As we mentioned in a post earlier this week, granting copyright removes a work from the public domain, prompting Chief Justice John Roberts to ask: "What about Jimi Hendrix, right? He has a distinctive rendition of the national anthem, and assuming the national anthem is suddenly entitled to copyright protection that it wasn't before, he can't do that, right?"
The government's response: "Maybe Jimi Hendrix could claim fair use."
A decision in the case, Golan v. Holder, is expected by July.
At Sheldon Mak & Anderson, we recognize that innovation is your competitive edge íV and it needs protection. As a full-service intellectual property firm with more than two decades of experience, we provide local, regional, national, and international legal services in the following areas: patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, IP litigation, international patent and trademark prosecution, licensing, alternative dispute resolution, and green technology.