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Copyright: works produced by judges and legislators in the performance of their duties are not protected by copyright

date: 07.05.2020
Area: Intellectual Property

In a decision of 27 April 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that copyright may not be extended to works produced by judges or legislators in the performance of their judicial and legislative functions. The case involved the State of Georgia and the Public.Resource.Org (PRO), a non-profit organization dedicated to facilitating public access to government documents and official legislative texts. The latter allegedly published online and distributed copies of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA), the State’s  code containing all of Georgia’s statutes and a series of non-binding annotations made by a division of the LexisNexis group, under an agreement with the Georgia Code Revision Commission (a state body composed mostly of legislators). As a result, the Commission sued PRO for copyright infringement of the OCGA annotations. The case, which was brought to the attention of the Supreme Court, was won by PRO with a majority of 5 out of 9 judges. In the motivations, President Roberts referred to a doctrine of governmental edicts, according to which judges have the authority to make and interpret the law and cannot be authors of the works they prepare in performing these duties, on the basis that no one can “own the law”. This, in the majority’s opinion, can only apply to legislators as well.

Therefore, the Court first found that the sole author of the notes to the OCGA had to identify himself with the Commission, which, as part of the Legislature of Georgia, is to be regarded as a legislature. Secondly, the Court stated that the notes under discussion were indeed taken while carrying out the Commission’s legislative functions. Inasmuch, in applying said doctrine, most of the members of the Court was able to state that the annotations were not subject to copyright and, as such, could be used freely by the PRO.

Copyright: works produced by judges and legislators in the performance of their duties are not protected by copyright

date: 07.05.2020
Area: Intellectual Property

In a decision of 27 April 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that copyright may not be extended to works produced by judges or legislators in the performance of their judicial and legislative functions. The case involved the State of Georgia and the Public.Resource.Org (PRO), a non-profit organization dedicated to facilitating public access to government documents and official legislative texts. The latter allegedly published online and distributed copies of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA), the State’s  code containing all of Georgia’s statutes and a series of non-binding annotations made by a division of the LexisNexis group, under an agreement with the Georgia Code Revision Commission (a state body composed mostly of legislators). As a result, the Commission sued PRO for copyright infringement of the OCGA annotations. The case, which was brought to the attention of the Supreme Court, was won by PRO with a majority of 5 out of 9 judges. In the motivations, President Roberts referred to a doctrine of governmental edicts, according to which judges have the authority to make and interpret the law and cannot be authors of the works they prepare in performing these duties, on the basis that no one can “own the law”. This, in the majority’s opinion, can only apply to legislators as well.

Therefore, the Court first found that the sole author of the notes to the OCGA had to identify himself with the Commission, which, as part of the Legislature of Georgia, is to be regarded as a legislature. Secondly, the Court stated that the notes under discussion were indeed taken while carrying out the Commission’s legislative functions. Inasmuch, in applying said doctrine, most of the members of the Court was able to state that the annotations were not subject to copyright and, as such, could be used freely by the PRO.