Supreme Court upholds copyrights on older foreign works like 'Peter & The Wolf'

"Peter and the Wolf" quilt
"Peter and the Wolf" quilt Soksia/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

The U.S. Supreme Court has handed down a ruling on copyright protection, but don't go looking to it for answers on online piracy. The case involved music by Sergei Prokofiev and some of Alfred Hitchcock’s older films.

In 1994, Congress voted to take a number of foreign works out of the public domain to conform with an international agreement. By a 6-2 vote, the high court decided that Congress had acted properly.

Lawrence Golan, the music professor who brought the case, said that means he won’t be able to afford the score for school performances of “Peter and the Wolf.”

He said he used to be able "to buy it for $100 and then play it for children's concerts morning after morning after morning, with busloads of kids taken to the auditorium every day. And all of that for that $100 purchase." He said the same music now costs six times that amount.

Writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said, “Congress had reason to believe that a well-functioning international copyright system would encourage the dissemination of existing and future works.”

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