A federal judge dismissed charges against a New York record store owner on Friday who had been selling unauthorized recordings of concerts, saying a law against boot-legging was unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Harold Baer ruled that the statute banning boot-legging was unconstitutional because it says that copyrights on live performances are protected forever. This, he said, conflicts with the “limited time” requirements of copyright law.
The 18-page ruling relates to charges against Jean Martignon, who owns a record store, a catalog service, and an Internet site. Federal prosecutors brought a single criminal charge against the store owner, but did not provide details about the scope of any bootlegging or which musicians were involved, the judge said.
Unlike the anti-bootlegging statute, which was adopted in April 1994 as part of the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade, most U.S. copyright protection lasts for 70 years after the death of an author or artist.
In his ruling, the judge wrote that it “is undeniable that the anti-bootlegging statute grants seemingly perpetual protection to live musical performances, and therefore would run afoul” of standard copyright provisions.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, which brought the charges against the record store owner, said it was reviewing the decision and would “evaluate what steps ought to be taken going forward.”