Public Resource Receives $5 million, 5-year Grant From Arcadia

“Public.Resource.Org (“Public Resource”) is pleased and delighted to announce that we have received a $5 million grant from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. This grant will support our work from 2020-2025, and is in addition to the $1.5 million in funding from Arcadia which supports our work from 2018-2020. This kind of sustained support over the long haul is so rare in the world of nonprofits, and Public Resource is very grateful for the help and inspiration Arcadia has shown us….”

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….”

Clinic Files SCOTUS Brief w/Caselaw Access Project, Arguing for Unburdened Access to Law | Cyberlaw Clinic

“This week, the Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief (pdf) in the United States Supreme Court in the case, Georgia, et. al v. Public.Resource.Org Inc, No. 18-1150. The Clinic filed the brief on behalf of the Caselaw Access Project (CAP), a team of legal researchers, software developers, and law librarians based in the Harvard Law Library. The Clinic’s brief advocates for upholding the Eleventh Circuit’s holding in favor of the respondent, Public.Resource.Org (PRO), arguing for an easy, universal, and unrestricted access to the law. The case raises one major copyright concern: does the “government edicts doctrine” extend to—and therefore render uncopyrightable—materials that lack the force of, but are published alongside, and sometimes even inextricably mixed with, the law?…”

Free the Law – Amicus Brief in Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org

“In 2013, Public.Resource.Org (PRO), a non-profit corporation based in California, purchased, scanned, and posted the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA).  The OCGA is the one and only official law of the State of Georgia, but the state objected strongly, maintaining that the only party who could make the OCGA available was their single, designated commercial vendor.  According to the State of Georgia, any other use–including PRO’s public dissemination of the law–is a copyright violation.

The State of Georgia sued Public Resource in the U.S. District Court and received judgement in their favor including a federal injunction prohibiting any and all dissemination of the code.  PRO appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and won a 3-0 victory, reversing the decision of the court below.

The State of Georgia appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Public Resource responded, maintaining that the State of Georgia has the law and the facts wrong, but nevertheless, the matter should be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

We prepared a amicus brief on behalf of 119 law students, 54 solo and small-firm practitioners of aw, and 21 legal educators in support of Public.Resource.Org, arguing that the Supreme Court should take the case to ensure that we have free access to all of the law nationwide, and not just to Georgia’s law.

The Supreme Court has since agreed to take the case….”

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.)…”