The United States Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Carl malamud's Public.Resource.Org in its case against the state of Georgia. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5–4 that the state of Georgia can't claim copyright over its annotated code. State publications are now unambiguously in the public domain. The opinion is available here.
The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh. There were two dissenting opinions: one authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Alito and Breyer, and the other authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and joined by Justice Breyer.
At issue in the case was the Official Code of Georgia, Annotated, published exclusively by LexisNexis. The sate contracts with LexisNexis to publish the Georgia state code as well as to write and publish the annotations under the supervision of Georgia’s Code Revision Commission. The state of Georgia argued that the annotations are copyrightable.
The majority of the court found that the involvement of the state commission in overseeing the annotation process means that annotations can be considered a product of the legislative process and, in a sense, to be authored by legislators. “Although Lexis expends considerable effort preparing the annotations, for purposes of copyright that labor redounds to the Commission as the statutory author,” Roberts wrote. He concluded that “whatever work [a] judge or legislator produces in the course of his judicial or legislative duties is not copyrightable.”
The decision is an important win for PublicResource.org and for the open government movement. But, a Law360 article on the decision adds, "What is guaranteed is that publishers who work with governmental representatives will be looking closely at their contracts and relationships, with the court's new ruling in hand, to assess the structure and incentives that surround the creation of annotations, summaries and other analysis of the law."