High court upholds copyrights for once-free work

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court upheld a law Wednesday giving U.S. copyright protection to paintings by Pablo Picasso, films of Alfred Hitchcock, music from Igor Stravinsky and millions of other works by foreign artists that had been freely available.

The justices said in a 6-2 decision Wednesday that Congress acted within its power when it extended protection to works that had been in the public domain. The law’s challengers complained that community orchestras, academics and others who rely on works that are available for free have effectively been priced out of performing “Peter and the Wolf” and other pieces that had been mainstays of their repertoires.

The case concerned a 1994 law that was intended to bring the U.S. into compliance with an international treaty on intellectual property. Without it, American artists might have found it hard to protect their work in certain countries that lacked specific copyright arrangements with the United States.

The law requires people to ask permission or pay royalties before copying, playing or republishing foreign works that previously could not have been copyrighted in the United States.

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