Golan v. Holder, Copyright and the Soncino Talmud

Golan v. Holder is now before the Supreme Court and will be heard in October. It addresses the following issues:
Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act of 1994 granted copyright protection to millions of works that the Copyright Act had placed in the public domain of the United States, where they had remained for years as the common property of all Americans and free to use without restriction. The questions presented here are:
1. Does the Copyright Clause of the United States Constitution prohibit Congress from taking works out of the public domain?
2. Does Section 514 violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution?
There are two sides to this case in our Talmudic view. Copyright must be enforced for commerce in published works to be carried out in any meaningful manner. However a major concern of this case is those works that were in the public domain by virtue of legalities pre-1994, which now would be wrested from the public domain by the URAA 1994.

That universe of publications does not include the Soncino translation of the Talmud, published  between 1935 and 1948 in London. That set has long been in the public domain due to the gracious wishes of the publisher and authors to make their work universally available as  resource for the Jewish people. No matter what the decision in Golan v. Holder, the public domain status of the Soncino Talmud will not change.

We believe the Supreme Court's logic for interpreting the law of public domain publications will be as follows. What was in the PD before 1994 should remain there. Going forward from 1994, the URAA may govern copyright for publications issued after that date. But how it will govern the materials after 1994 in the PD, that is another more complex question.

The Center for Internet and Society (CIS) at Stanford Law School has several postings on this matter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Copyright must be enforced for commerce in published works to be carried out in any meaningful manner."

Though commonly assumed, this may not realy be true either on an economic level or on a Talmudic (halakhic) level.

As in many areas, the claims by corporations about their needs regarding commerce may not really fit in with what really motivates innovation and economic expansion in a society.