Friday, 26 October 2018

A win for the open law movement

The ABA Journal reports that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has unanimously ruled that Georgia’s official annotated state code is not copyrightable and belongs in the public domain. The case was an appeal by well-known open law advocate Carl Malamud and his foundation In 2017 an Atlanta federal judge in the Northern District of Georgia had ruled that the state of Georgia can copyright annotations to its official state code and that cannot print those annotations on its website without a license (244 F. Supp. 3d 1350). The 11th Circuit court overturned that ruling. From the opinion:
Today, we are presented with the question of whether the annotations contained in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA), authored by the Georgia General Assembly and made an inextricable part of the official codification of Georgia’s laws, may be copyrighted by the State of Georgia. Answering this question means confronting profound and difficult issues about the nature of law in our society and the rights of citizens to have unfettered access to the legal edicts that govern their lives. After a thorough review of the law, and an examination of the annotations, we conclude that no valid copyright interest can be asserted in any part of the OCGA.
we conclude that the annotations in the OCGA are sufficiently law-like so as to be properly regarded as a sovereign work. Like the statutory text itself, the annotations are created by the Case: 17-11589 Date Filed: 10/19/2018 Page: 4 of 58 5 duly constituted legislative authority of the State of Georgia. Moreover, the annotations clearly have authoritative weight in explicating and establishing the meaning and effect of Georgia’s laws. Furthermore, the procedures by which the annotations were incorporated bear the hallmarks of legislative process, namely bicameralism and presentment.

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