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March 2012

US grants copyright protection for foreign artists

The Supreme Court has upheld the right of Congress to remove works by foreign artists from the public domain

US Supreme Court, Washington, DC Photo: Claire Anderson on Unsplash

The US Supreme Court has upheld the right of Congress to remove works by foreign artists from the public domain, and so grant them copyright protection. In 1994, the US signed up to an international trade agreement to bring it into compliance with the Berne Convention on copyright. The government was then challenged on a number of grounds. Frank Stella, the artist and an activist for intellectual property rights, says he is “gratified” that the court has upheld “the rights of our foreign members”. But Linda Downs, the executive director of the College Art Association, says that the public domain has long been “a vital resource for artists, scholars, and educators” in the visual arts, which the law “diminished”.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 233 March 2012