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Classical News, Jazz, Opera, World Music, Theater, Ballet ...

Conductors take US government to court
Conductors have invoked a clause of the US Constitution to challenge copyright laws that they claim make it too expensive to perform music by Stravinsky, Shostakovich and other non-US composers.

In one instance the rental charges for sheet music for works written by Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Prokofiev soared from less than $100 to more than $1,000. The New York conductor who hired the music, Richard Kapp, will be forced to pay several thousand dollars more if he wants to hire the music again.

Mr Kapp is one of the plaintiffs in a suit filed against the US government in federal court in Denver, reports The National Law Journal. It is apparently the first constitutional challenge to a 7-year-old copyright law that grants protection to foreign works that were formerly in the public domain.

The plaintiffs, who also include University of Denver professor of music Lawrence Golan and the non-profit Symphony of the Canyons, claim that the copyright law prevents them from performing works by notable foreign composers by making the royalty fees for performing the music cost-prohibitive.

They also argue that the law, Sec. 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), violates the limitations imposed on copyrights by the copyright clause of the U.S. Constitution, namely that copyrights be limited in duration and that they "promote the Progress of Science and useful arts."

Money may be the reason the URAA has not been challenged before, says the law journal. One of the plaintiff's attorneys told the journal that challenging the law had been difficult because the people most impacted by it were small community artistic groups and not-for-profits, and could not afford to sue.

Thu Nov 29 2001 (12:33:11 PM)


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