Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Georgia v Public Resource in the Supreme Court

Public.Resource.org, the organization founded by Carl Malamud with the motto “Making Government Information More Accessible," has been involved in litigation with the state of Georgia and its Code Revision Commission for several years. At issue is whether states like Georgia can claim copyright ownership over certain legal texts, specifically the official annotated versions of the Georgia statutory code. Public.Resource.org made the law of Georgia freely available online. Georgia objected. Georgia’s official code contains more than just the letter of the law. That extra content – like summaries of relevant court decisions – creates the legal question: can the whole book be freely-published online?
In CODE REVISION COMMISSION and State of Georgia v. PUBLIC.RESOURCE.ORG, INC., 244 F.Supp.3d 1350 (2017), the United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division decided that the annotations in the Code were copyrightable, and the alleged infringer's use was not a non-infringing fair use.
Public.Resource.org appealed, and in Code Revision Commission for General Assembly of Georgia v. Public.Resource.org, 906 F.3d 1229 (2018), the 11th Circuit Court overturned the lower court's ruling and held that "held that annotations editorially created for the annotated compilation of Georgia statutes, while not having the force of law, were sufficiently law-like so as to be regarded as sovereign work constructively authored by the People, and thus were not copyrightable."
The Code Revision Commission of Georgia appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in June the Supreme Court granted certiorari in GEORGIA, et al., petitioners, v. PUBLIC.RESOURCE.ORG, INC. 139 S.Ct. 2746 (June 2019) (note that this link goes to Westlaw). The case was argued before the Supreme Court on Monday, December 2. If you are interested in following the case, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued, under the authority of the state and via Internet, a transcript of oral argument prepared by HERITAGE REPORTING CORPORATION Official Reporters.

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