Thu, 19 Jan 2012 03:24 CST
© H. Darr Beiser/USAT
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent that the statute inhibits the dissemination of millions of foreign works.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal law that gave copyright protection to millions of foreign-produced books, movies and musical pieces and may undermine Google Inc.'s effort to create an online library.
Today's 6-2 ruling takes works by Alfred Hitchcock, Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky and J.R.R. Tolkien out of the public domain, barring use without permission of the copyright owner. The decision is a victory for the film and music industries and a setback for Google, which had said it would lose access to many of the 15 million books it wants to make available online.
The justices rejected arguments from orchestra conductors, educators, performers, film archivists and movie distributors. They argued that the 1994 law violates the constitutional provision that lets Congress set up a copyright system, as well as the Constitution's free-speech guarantee.
The law "lies well within the ken of the political branches," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority. Justices Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito dissented, and Justice Elena Kagan didn't take part in the case.