State of Georgia, et al. v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc., No. 18-1150, amicus brief filed 10/10/2019. October 10, 2019

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AIPLA on October 10, 2019, filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court a case that will decide whether the government edicts doctrine extends to—and thus renders uncopyrightable—works that lack the force of law but that provide official guidance on the law. The specific works at issue in this case are the annotations contained in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated. The brief argues that these annotations are official, State-authored guidance to citizens on what the law is, and therefore should not be subject to copyright protection.

The Supreme Court has long held that judicial opinions are “government edicts” that say what the law is and that should be fully accessible to all people. Allowing States to own copyrights in such works impairs that access. AIPLA believes that the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit correctly determined in this case that the “official” annotations at issue in this case are analogous to judicial opinions. The compilation of annotations was authored by the State through the “work made for hire” provision of the Copyright Act, and they instruct readers on the State’s official views of what are, and are not, the most important things to know in order to understand what the State’s law is. AIPLA believes that allowing a State to claim copyright ownership in such works impairs public access to the law. Nevertheless, in AIPLA’s view, this case presents a narrow set of facts that does not pose a barrier to State ownership of copyright in any other types of works that are not official guidance from a State about its laws.

 

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