Justices debate allowing state law to be “hidden behind a pay wall” | Ars Technica

“The courts have long held that laws can’t be copyrighted. But if the state mixes the text of the law together with supporting information, things get trickier. In Monday oral arguments, the US Supreme Court wrestled with the copyright status of Georgia’s official legal code, which includes annotations written by LexisNexis.

The defendant in the case is Public.Resource.Org (PRO), a non-profit organization that publishes public-domain legal materials. The group obtained Georgia’s official version of state law, known as the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, and published the code on its website. The state of Georgia sued, arguing that while the law itself is in the public domain, the accompanying annotations are copyrighted works that can’t be published by anyone except LexisNexis.

Georgia won at the trial court level, but PRO won at the appeals court level. On Monday, the case reached the US Supreme Court.

During Monday’s oral argument, some justices seemed skeptical of Georgia’s position.

“Why would we allow the official law to be hidden behind a pay wall?” asked Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Georgia’s lawyer countered that the law wasn’t hidden behind a paywall—at least not the legally binding parts. LexisNexis offers a free version of Georgia’s code, sans annotations, on its website.

But that version isn’t the official code. LexisNexis’ terms of service explicitly warns users that it might be inaccurate. The company also prohibits users from scraping the site’s content. If you want to own the latest official version of the state code, you have to pay LexisNexis hundreds of dollars. And if you want to publish your own copy of Georgia’s official code, you’re out of luck….”

Georgia v. PublicResource.Org: Copyright Case Before the Supreme Court | Authors Alliance

“The Code Revision Commission (the “Commission”), an arm of the State of Georgia’s General Assembly, is mandated to ensure publication of the statutes adopted by the General Assembly. It does so by contracting with the LexisNexis Group (“Lexis”) to maintain, publish, and distribute the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (“OCGA”), an annotated compilation of Georgia’s statutes. Following guidelines provided by the Commission, Lexis prepares and sells OCGA, which includes the statutory text of Georgia’s laws and annotations (such as summaries of judicial decisions interpreting or applying particular statutes). Lexis also makes unannotated versions of the statutes available online.

Public.Resource.Org (“PRO”) is a non-profit organization that promotes access to government records and primary legal materials. PRO makes government documents available online, including the official codes and other rules, regulations, and standards legally adopted by federal, state, and local authorities, giving the public free access to these documents. PRO purchased printed copies of the OCGA, digitized its content, and posted copies online through its own website.

Georgia filed suit against PRO claiming copyright infringement. Before the lower courts, PRO invoked the judicially-created “government edicts” doctrine. As a matter of public policy, courts have held that government edicts having the force of law, such as statutes and judicial decisions, are not eligible for copyright protection. While the court of first instance agreed with the State of Georgia and the OCGA was found to be copyrightable, on appeal the Eleventh Circuit held that under the government edicts doctrine, OCGA is not copyrightable and rejected Georgia’s infringement claim against PRO. Now, the issue before the Supreme Court is whether Georgia can claim copyrights over the OCGA annotations or if it is prevented from doing so because the annotations are an edict of government….”

Georgia v. PublicResource.Org: Copyright Case Before the Supreme Court | Authors Alliance

“The Code Revision Commission (the “Commission”), an arm of the State of Georgia’s General Assembly, is mandated to ensure publication of the statutes adopted by the General Assembly. It does so by contracting with the LexisNexis Group (“Lexis”) to maintain, publish, and distribute the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (“OCGA”), an annotated compilation of Georgia’s statutes. Following guidelines provided by the Commission, Lexis prepares and sells OCGA, which includes the statutory text of Georgia’s laws and annotations (such as summaries of judicial decisions interpreting or applying particular statutes). Lexis also makes unannotated versions of the statutes available online.

Public.Resource.Org (“PRO”) is a non-profit organization that promotes access to government records and primary legal materials. PRO makes government documents available online, including the official codes and other rules, regulations, and standards legally adopted by federal, state, and local authorities, giving the public free access to these documents. PRO purchased printed copies of the OCGA, digitized its content, and posted copies online through its own website.

Georgia filed suit against PRO claiming copyright infringement. Before the lower courts, PRO invoked the judicially-created “government edicts” doctrine. As a matter of public policy, courts have held that government edicts having the force of law, such as statutes and judicial decisions, are not eligible for copyright protection. While the court of first instance agreed with the State of Georgia and the OCGA was found to be copyrightable, on appeal the Eleventh Circuit held that under the government edicts doctrine, OCGA is not copyrightable and rejected Georgia’s infringement claim against PRO. Now, the issue before the Supreme Court is whether Georgia can claim copyrights over the OCGA annotations or if it is prevented from doing so because the annotations are an edict of government….”

Supreme Court to decide if Georgia code is free to the public

“On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will take up that question as the justices consider whether the annotated version of Georgia code is protected under copyright law or should be made available to the public free of charge.

The hotly disputed case, pitting the state against an open records proponent, has caught the attention of the Trump administration, whose lawyers say Georgia’s code should be protected. At the same time, news media and civil rights organizations are also weighing in, contending the public should have unhindered access to the state code….”

Clinic Files Law Scholar Briefs, Supporting Public.Resource.Org | Cyberlaw Clinic

“On Friday, November 22, 2019, the Cyberlaw Clinic and local counsel Marcia Hofmann filed amicus briefs in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in two related cases, ASTM v. Public.Resource.Org (.pdf), and AERA v. Public.Resource.Org (.pdf). The cases involve copyright infringement claims brought by standards development organizations (SDOs) against Public.Resource.org. The cases are back before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on remand from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The core issue in front of the Court is whether PRO’s provision of free online access to codes that were developed by the plaintiffs — but incorporated by reference into binding law — constitutes fair use….”

High Court narrowly backs Ordnance Survey in ‘address wars’ case | UKAuthority

“In particular, the judgment will give ammunition to businesses wishing to re-use datasets created under the EU INSPIRE directive and those published under the Open Government Licence.

The litigation began in 2016 when 77m, a small business registered in Surrey, sought a declaration from Ordnance Survey that a product called Matrix, which contains some 28 million residential and non-residential addresses, did not infringe any Ordnance Survey intellectual property rights.

 OS responded with a defence and a counterclaim, claiming infringement of both copyright and database rights. The case was transferred from the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court to the High Court, where it was heard last summer by one of England and Wales’ most experienced patents judges, Sir Colin Birss (Mr Justice Birss)….”

Who Owns H.I.V.-Prevention Drugs? The Taxpayers, U.S. Says – The New York Times

“After years of prodding by patient advocates, federal officials on Wednesday sued the drug maker Gilead Sciences, charging that it had infringed government patents on the idea of preventing H.I.V. with a daily pill.

The suit, by the Department of Health and Human Services, came as a pleasant shock to many critics of the company, including Democratic members of Congress who had pressed the administration to act.

It is very rare for the government to take on a drug maker over patents. But the medications made by Gilead are necessary to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, which the Trump administration has set as a goal. That cannot be accomplished if the drugs are not made more affordable….”

The Project Jengo Saga: How Cloudflare Stood up to a Patent Troll – and Won!

“After we were sued by Blackbird, we decided that we wouldn’t roll over. We decided we would do our best to turn the incentive structure on its head and make patent trolls think twice before attempting to take advantage of the system. We created Project Jengo in an effort to remove this economic asymmetry from the litigation. In our initial blog post we suggested we could level the playing field by: (i) defending ourselves vigorously against the patent lawsuit instead of rolling over and paying a licensing fee or settling, (ii) funding awards for crowdsourced prior art that could be used to invalidate any of Blackbird’s patents, not just the one asserted against Cloudflare, and (iii) asking the relevant bar associations to investigate what we considered to be Blackbird’s violations of the rules of professional conduct for attorneys….”

The inspiring story of how Cloudflare defeated a patent troll and broke the patent-trolling business-model / Boing Boing

“In 2016, Cloudflare was targeted by a notorious patent troll called Blackbird Technologies; rather than capitulate, the company set up a fund called “Project Jengo” to pay bounties to researchers who documented prior art that could be used to invalidate the patent in question — and all of Blackbird’s patents, and began to file to have additional patents invalidated based on that crowdsourced research.

 

Not only did Cloudflare prevail in its litigation, it also seems to have taken a serious bite out of Blackbird, whose headcount has dropped precipitously, along with the number of lawsuits the company has filed. And to add insult to injury, the Cloudflare filed ethics complaints against the company’s founder (who are both lawyers) with their individual bar associations….”

Breaking: 11th Circuit Rules for Fastcase in Copyright Dispute with Casemaker | LawSites

“The ongoing legal battle between Fastcase and Casemaker over the latter’s claims of copyright in Georgia administrative regulations has taken a notable turn as the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the lower court erroneously granted summary judgment in favor of Casemaker. The three-judge panel remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings.

In 2016, Fastcase sued Casemaker in federal court in Atlanta after Casemaker served it a written notice demanding that it remove Georgia administrative rules and regulations from its research collection. Casemaker’s parent company, Lawriter, has an agreement with the Georgia Secretary of State designating it as the exclusive publisher of the Georgia Rules and Regulations and giving it the right to license that content to other publishers….”