GOLDSTEIN V. CALIFORNIA, 412 U. S. 546 (1973)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Goldstein v. California, 412 U.S. 546 (1973)

Goldstein v. California

No. 71-1192

Argued December 13, 1972

Decided June 18, 1973

412 U.S. 546


Petitioners, convicted for committing acts of "record piracy" or "tape piracy" in 1970-1971, challenge the California statute proscribing such practices, as violative of the "Copyright Clause," Art. I, § 8, cl. 8, of the Constitution, and the federal statutes enacted thereunder. The state appellate court upheld the validity of the statute.


1. Article I, § 8, cl. 8, does not expressly or by inference vest all power to grant copyright protection exclusively in the Federal Government. Pp. 412 U. S. 552-561.

(a) Although the objective of the Copyright Clause was to facilitate the granting of rights national in scope, it does not indicate that all "Writings" are of national interest or that protective state legislation is, in all cases, unnecessary or precluded. Pp. 412 U. S. 555-558.

(b) No substantially prejudicial interstate conflicts result where some States grant copyright protection within their own jurisdictions, while other States do not. Pp. 412 U. S. 558-559.

(c) Conflicts will not necessarily arise between state enactments and congressional policy when States grant copyright protection. P. 412 U. S. 559.

(d) Unless Congress determines that the national interest requires federal protection or freedom from restraint as to a particular category of "Writings," state protection of that category is not precluded. P. 412 U. S. 559.

(e) The durational limitation imposed by the Copyright Clause on Congress does not invalidate state laws, like the one here, that have no such limitation. Pp. 412 U. S. 560-561.

2. The California statute does not violate the Supremacy Clause by conflicting with federal copyright law. Pp. 412 U. S. 561-570.

(a) Congress did not, in passing the Copyright Act of 1909, determine that recordings, as original writings, were unworthy of all copyright protection. Pp. 412 U. S. 563-566.

(b) Nor did Congress in 17 U.S.C. § 4, which provides that "the works for which copyrights may be secured under this Act shall include all writings of an author," or in § 5, preempt state control over all works to which the term "writings" might apply.

Page 412 U. S. 547

Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Stiffel Co., 376 U. S. 225; Compco Corp. v. Day-Brite Lighting, 376 U. S. 234, distinguished. Pp. 412 U. S. 567-569.

3. Although, in 1971, the federal copyright statutes were amended to allow federal protection of recordings, such statutory protection was not intended to alter the legal relationships governing recordings "fixed" prior to February 15, 1972. Until and unless Congress takes further action with respect to recordings fixed prior to February 15, 1972, California remains free to proscribe acts of record or tape piracy such as those involved here. Pp. 412 U. S. 570-571.


BURGER, C.J.,delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, WHITE, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., post, p. 412 U. S. 572, and MARSHALL, J., post, p. 412 U. S. 576, filed dissenting opinions, in which BRENNAN and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined.

Page 412 U. S. 548

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