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'Georgia Copyright Loss at High Court Could Jolt Many States' by Jordan S. Rubin
Jordan S. Rubin writes the following for Bloomberg Law:
Georgia lost a close U.S. Supreme Court case over the state’s ability to copyright its annotated legal code, in a ruling heralded by public access advocates over dissent that lamented its disruptive impact on states’ existing business arrangements.
Copyright protection doesn’t extend to annotations in the state’s official annotated code, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for a 5-4 majority on [April 27] that crossed ideological lines. Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh joined Roberts.
The high court clarified the scope of the ‘government edicts doctrine,’ which had previously barred copyright in materials created by judges.
The doctrine’s logic also applies to materials created by legislatures, Roberts wrote. Because Georgia’s annotations are authored by an arm of the legislature in the course of its official duties, the doctrine bars copyright here, too. …
Public.Resource.Org, the pro-access organization that won the dispute, is pleased that the court ‘rejected the possibility that a full understanding of the law could be made available only to those who can afford to pay for “first-class” access,’ said Goldstein & Russell’s Eric Citron, who represented the group. He said they’re looking forward to helping states expand access to their legal codes and they hope this leads to greater public engagement with the law. …
[T]he ruling ‘will likely come as a shock to the 25 other jurisdictions—22 States, 2 Territories, and the District of Columbia—that rely on arrangements similar to Georgia’s to produce annotated codes,’ Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a dissent joined by Justice Samuel Alito and partially by Justice Stephen Breyer. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote her own dissent, joined by Breyer.
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