Monday, April 27, 2020

The Night The Copyrights Went Out In Georgia

In a decision released April 27, 2020, the United States Supreme Court ("Supremes") decided against the State of Georgia, which had asserted its copyright in "statutory text and accompanying annotations".  Public.Resource.Org ("PRO") "is a nonprofit organization that aims to facilitate public access to governmental records and legal materials."  When it posted on the web a digital version of the "Official Code of Georgia Annotated" ("OCGA") without permission from a Georgia agency named the Code Revision Commission ("Commission"), the Commission sued PRO for allegedly infringing its copyright in the OCGA.

the annotations in Georgia’s Official Code are ineligible for copyright protection, though for reasons distinct from those relied on by the Court of Appeals.  A careful examination of our government edicts precedents reveals a straightforward rule based on the identity of the author. Under the government edicts doctrine, judges—and, we now confirm, legislators—may not be considered the “authors” of the works they produce in the course of their official duties as judges and legislators.  That rule applies regardless of whether a given material carries the force of law.  And it applies to the annotations here because they are authored by an arm of the legislature in the course of its official duties.
After Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc., anyone considering copying government works of authorship will certainly have Georgia on their mind.