View Full Version : Constitution trumps treaties

Scarecrow Repair
04-07-2009, 12:01 PM
Bear with me -- IANAL and all that -- but this seems pretty good news to me. Groklaw is a website for free software legalities and has an article (http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20090405224406465) about a court decision that the first amendment trumps a treaty, not the other way round as the government had argued.

Some background. The Golan case challenges the constitutionality of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, by which, among other things, Congress removed thousands of books, films, songs, and other creative works from the public domain and "restored" them to copyright. The Golan plaintiffs, a group of conductors and film distributors who used these public domain works, challenged Congress's depredation of the public domain. The primary ground for the challenge was that Congress, by removing works from the public domain, departed from the "traditional contours of copyright protection" in a way that limited free speech in violation of the First Amendment. Limited how? By making the use of the former public domain works subject to the approval of the owners of the "restored" copyrights. By, in short, imposing copyright burdens on free speech where none had existed before.

In other words, if this holds, it seems to me to set a pretty good precedent that no treaty can wipe out the second amendment either. What I especially like is that the first amendment wasn't directly challenged by the treaty but was found to be in conflict anyway.

Whether any given set of politicians chooses to respect that any more than they respect the Constitution now is another question.