The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Golan vs. Holder, according to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education: A Professor’s Fight Over Shostakovich Heads to the Supreme Court.
When Congress changed the law on when a work enters the public domain in 1994, a lot of works that had been in the public domain suddenly were removed. Congress determined that an item entered the public domain 70 years after the author’s death. (I think before it was 70 years after publication.) Orchestras (like Professor Lawrence Golan’s at the University of Denver) that had been playing pieces in the public domain (like Stravinsky) no longer had access to the music because it was removed from public domain. The main question brought up in this law suit is whether or not Congress has the right to remove works that had already been in the public domain.
One of my short stories, “What’s Past,” quotes three lines from the song Deep Purple, which originally was published as piano music in 1933. The lyrics, written by Mitchell Parish, were published in 1938. If public domain was defined by 70 years after publication, then Deep Purple would be in the public domain and no problem with using the lyrics. However, since Parish died in 1993, the work would enter the public domain in 2063.