Academics and Research / News

Supreme Court rules against music Professor Lawrence Golan

DU music Professor Lawrence Golan has lost his 10-year legal battle with the U.S. government.

In 2001, Golan and a group of arts professionals around the country filed a lawsuit against the government, claiming that current U.S. copyright law has made it prohibitively expensive for smaller orchestras to perform copyrighted music. Golan — who also is the conductor of the Lamont Symphony Orchestra — was the lead plaintiff in the case, Golan v. Holder.

On Jan. 18, the Supreme Court ruled 6-2 to uphold current laws that grant international copyright protection to musical compositions, books and other artistic works. Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in the case.

“Obviously, the Supreme Court’s decision is a huge disappointment to me and to thousands of my colleagues in music and academia,” Golan says. “Nonetheless, it is now official: Something that is in the public domain may be taken out of the public domain at a later date.”

The lawsuit challenged two parts of the U.S. Constitution: the Progress Clause, which states that Congress only has the right to protect artistic works for a limited time, and the First Amendment, which protects Americans’ right to free speech, including the right to perform music, publish books, display artwork and show films.

A statement from the Court Opinion reads: “Congress determined that U.S. interests were best served by our full participation in the dominant system of international copyright protection.”

The court heard arguments in the copyright lawsuit — which had gone through the federal District Court and 10th Circuit Appeals Court system twice during the past 10 years — on Oct. 5.


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