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IP Alert: Supreme Court to Consider Government Control of Copyright of Legal Texts

June 25, 2019

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Georgia et al. v. Public.Resource.Org Inc., a case involving public access to the State of Georgia’s official statutory code and official annotations. Georgia sued advocacy group Public.Resource after it purchased a copy of the annotated code and uploaded it to the internet for free public consumption without permission.

In October 2018 the Eleventh Circuit sided with Public.Resource, ruling that the legal code “is intrinsically public domain material, belonging to the People, and, as such, must be free for publication by all. As a result, no valid copyright can subsist in these works.” Georgia appealed to the Supreme Court in March 2019. Public.Resource subsequently agreed that the Court should consider the case to clarify the law.

The Court will consider this question: “Whether the government edicts doctrine extends to—and thus renders uncopyrightable—works that lack the force of law, such as the annotations in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.”  

The case is significant because of the importance of allowing public access to the official text of laws for purposes of consideration, consultation, innovation, and review. The Court’s decision will settle the question of the extent that the states and private enterprises can restrict access to those laws and authorities through the use of copyright law.

Fitch Even attorneys are monitoring this case and will report once a decision is released.

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