Who Owns the Law? How to Restore Public Ownership of Legal Publication

“Who owns the law? In the United States, most law is published by a handful of companies. Among the largest are Thomson Reuters, a Canadian mass-media information firm, and RELX Group, a Dutch analytics and information company. With very few exceptions, almost all “official” versions of state statutory codes and regulations are published by those two companies. Thomson Reuters also controls the National Reporter System, the caselaw reporters which are the required version for citation before most U.S. courts. Publication, of course, is not synonymous with “ownership.” Or at least it should not be.2 But, in the U.S. legal system, those two concepts have begun to merge; publishers now use powerful legal tools to control who has access to the text of the law, how much they must pay, and under what terms. This paper is about how that transfer of control occurred, and how it is harmful….”

Browse the Bookshelf of U.S. Case Law: Announcing the CAP Case Browser | Library Innovation Lab

“Today we’re announcing the CAP case browser! Browse published U.S. case law from 1658 to 2018—all 40 million pages of it.

The CAP case browser is one way to browse and cite cases made available via the Caselaw Access Project API. The Caselaw Access Project shares cases digitized from the collections of the Harvard Law School Library….”

HLS Caselaw Access Project helps researchers draw new connections between ideas, people and organizations – Harvard Law Today

Through the Caselaw Access Project, Harvard Law School has made millions of legal decisions more accessible to researchers than ever before. On campus last week, the inaugural Caselaw Research Summit, hosted by the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, brought to light the diversity of research that the project is making possible.

The Caselaw Access Project (CAP) was the result of five years of work by the Harvard Library Innovation Lab at Harvard Law School. Between 2013-18, the HLS Library digitized more than 40 million pages of data covering 6.5 million individual cases; the most comprehensive database of American law available anywhere outside the Library of Congress. But unlike the latter it gives nationwide researchers free, immediate access to judicial decisions from each of the 50 states, dating back to their founding. Tweaks are still being made to CAP, notably a new Historical Trends app that can trace the number of a times a word was used in legal cases over the years, with a timeline pointing to the relevant cases.

The day-long summit at Milstein West brought together research teams from as far away as Oxford, England, who gave a variety of presentations on their use of the dataset, enhancing research that was already underway, with faster, more comprehensive access to data. Presenters explored the contents of court opinions and the evolution of language, and examined  themes like link rot and connecting legal data with other digital collections….”

Georgia v. Public.Resource.org: Ending Private Copyright in Public Statutes

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the State of Georgia’s appeal in Georgia v. Public.Resource.org, addressing whether an official version of state statutes can be copyrighted by a private publisher. (In October 2018, the Eleventh Circuit ruled in favor of Public.Resource.org that private publishers cannot claim copyright in public law, and this is an appeal of that ruling.)…”

Georgia v. Public.Resource.org: Ending Private Copyright in Public Statutes

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the State of Georgia’s appeal in Georgia v. Public.Resource.org, addressing whether an official version of state statutes can be copyrighted by a private publisher. (In October 2018, the Eleventh Circuit ruled in favor of Public.Resource.org that private publishers cannot claim copyright in public law, and this is an appeal of that ruling.)…”

SCOTUS agrees to decide whether annotated state laws can be copyrighted

Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether annotations of the Georgia state code can be copyrighted.

The court agreed to decide Georgia’s appeal in its suit for copyright infringement against open law advocate Carl Malamud. Malamud had bought and scanned 186 printed volumes of Georgia’s annotated code and posted it to his website, Public.Resource.org….”

SCOTUS agrees to decide whether annotated state laws can be copyrighted

Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether annotations of the Georgia state code can be copyrighted.

The court agreed to decide Georgia’s appeal in its suit for copyright infringement against open law advocate Carl Malamud. Malamud had bought and scanned 186 printed volumes of Georgia’s annotated code and posted it to his website, Public.Resource.org….”

Opinion | The Law©? – The New York Times

No one owns the law, because the law belongs to everyone. It’s a principle that seems so obvious that most people wouldn’t give it a second thought. But that’s what is at issue in Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, a case about whether the State of Georgia can assert copyright in its annotated state code. This week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in its next term.

Americans deserve free and easy access to public records of all kinds, including court documents. But access to the law is the most important of all: Democracy depends on it. Keeping the law free of copyright is the first step….”

Accused of ‘Terrorism’ for Putting Legal Materials Online – The New York Times

“Carl Malamud believes in open access to government records, and he has spent more than a decade putting them online. You might think states would welcome the help.

But when Mr. Malamud’s group posted the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, the state sued for copyright infringement. Providing public access to the state’s laws and related legal materials, Georgia’s lawyers said, was part of a “strategy of terrorism.”

A federal appeals court ruled against the state, which has asked the Supreme Court to step in. On Friday, in an unusual move, Mr. Malamud’s group, Public.Resource.Orgalso urged the court to hear the dispute, saying that the question of who owns the law is an urgent one, as about 20 other states have claimed that parts of similar annotated codes are copyrighted….”