Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0022095, Mon, 17 Oct 2011 19:24:05 -0400

-- copyrights of a large number of foreign works, such as … books by Vladimir Nabokov ...
The Columbus Dispatch


Expected high-court copyright ruling might hurt schools

By Dean Narciso
The Columbus Dispatch Monday October 17, 2011 4:32 AMs
Artistic directors, musicians, teachers and librarians are wondering how a U.S. Supreme Court case might affect their ability to buy, use or archive music, books and movies.

Justices heard the case, Golan v. Holder, this month and will decide whether Congress has the authority to reinstate the copyrights of a large number of foreign works, such as symphonies by Sergei Prokofiev, books by Vladimir Nabokov and films by Federico Fellini that previously were in the public domain.

The case stems from the global General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, approved by Congress in 1994. It extended copyright protection abroad to works that were never copyrighted under U.S. law, especially to Russia, where heirs to composers were upset about the lack of compensation for artistic works, said Kent White of Stanton’s Sheet Music Downtown.

Lawmakers hoped that international trade agreements would strengthen bonds between countries, White said.

“The relationship between our two countries was testy at best,” White said of post-Cold War Russia. “Granting copyright helped compensate foreign countries for all the money the U.S. made on foreign music since the 1920s.”

“It does have a lot of implications, specifically for artistic works,” said Anne Gilliland, a copyright specialist at Ohio State University. Cinematographers and musicians will be wondering about their rights, and what they’ll have to pay. “All of those things go up for grabs again when you have things in the public domain that change suddenly.”

Acquiring copyright materials can be expensive, she said, explaining that she often directs departments toward cheaper alternatives.

“I handled one this week that was $25,” she said, describing the cost of reprinting an illustration in an academic journal that might have cost hundreds or thousands of dollars if the owner had asserted ownership rights.

Dave Filipi, director of film and video at the Wexner Center for the Arts, expects he’ll have more contact with foreign distributors if copyrights on many films are reinstated.

“Dealing with a European distributor is often more difficult than dealing with American film distributors,” Filipi said. “Instead of $250 and $100 for shipping, it’s all of a sudden $850 and $300” because of copyrights.

“I definitely see the need for an artist to exploit his or her work,” Filipi said. “But I think that 90 years of copyright when the artist is dead and the entity profiting from it is a big, faceless corporation is wrong.”

Copyright holders generally are protected for 70 years after the author’s death.

Schools worry about new copyrights on previously low-cost or no-cost music.

“A lot of the music we use is in the public domain,” said Larry Klabunde, a band director in the Worthington school district. “If all of a sudden they no longer are, then the cost of our books could go up. And what happens to the music we already own. Do we have to destroy it?”

After Congress passed the legislation in 1994, Stanton’s suffered, White said. “Overnight, every piece of (Russian) music disappeared. We didn’t have access to it.”

The Society of American Archivists recently endorsed the philosophy of Dublin-based Online Computer Library Center, which states in part that “although there is risk in digitizing materials that may be in copyright, this risk should be balanced with the harm to scholarship and society inherent in not making collections fully accessible.”

“They need to be careful,” Sheldon Halpern, professor emeritus of law at Ohio State, said of users of foreign media. “It’s a class of works that just by some quirk has fallen into the public domain in the U.S.”

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