Risk Update

The Hand that Rocks the Legal Cradle — Supreme Court on Copyrighting the Law (The Law Won)

First noted a year ago, now updated: “Georgia Copyright Loss at High Court Could Jolt Many States” —

  • “Georgia lost a close U.S. Supreme Court case over the state’s ability to copyright its annotated legal code, in a ruling heralded by public access advocates over dissent that lamented its disruptive impact on states’ existing business arrangements.”
  • “The high court clarified the scope of the ‘government edits doctrine,’ which had previously barred copyright in materials created by judges. The doctrine’s logic also applies to materials created by legislatures, Roberts wrote. Because Georgia’s annotations are authored by an arm of the legislature in the course of its official duties, the doctrine bars copyright here, too.”
  • “Public.Resource.Org, the pro-access organization that won the dispute, is pleased that the court ‘rejected the possibility that a full understanding of the law could be made available only to those who can afford to pay for ‘first-class’ access,’ said Goldstein & Russell’s Eric Citron, who represented the group. He said they’re looking forward to helping states expand access to their legal codes and they hope this leads to greater public engagement with the law.”
  • “It’s an important ruling not just for copyright law but for civil liberties, said Ropes and Gray’s Marta Belcher. She was lead counsel on a brief supporting the access group, filed on behalf of the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Cato Institute.”
  • “The state warned at oral argument in December that a ruling against it would ‘blow up’ not only Georgia’s copyright regime but ones in about a third of the states with similar setups.”
  • “Indeed, the ruling ‘will likely come as a shock to the 25 other jurisdictions—22 States, 2 Territories, and the District of Columbia—that rely on arrangements similar to Georgia’s to produce annotated codes,’ Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a dissent joined by Justice Samuel Alito and partially by Justice Stephen Breyer. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote her own dissent, joined by Breyer.”
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