Georgia Sues Public.Resource.org Over Copyright In Published Annotations to the Georgia Code

The State of Georgia is suing Public.Resources .Org, Inc. and Carl Malamud in federal court for posting copies of the Official George Code Annotated on the Public.Resources.Org.  Georgia contracts with Lexis to create annotated copies of the Code where Lexis fills in the annotated material in what appears to be a work for hire as Georgia claims copyright in the annotations and value-added materials.  In some respects, it explains why Lexis wasn’t a co-plaintiff.  The State does not claim copyright in the text of the Code itself.  The complaint is seeking injunctive relief and requesting that all scanned copies be removed and destroyed, and yes, attorney fees.

I think it would have been much easier for the State of Georgia if copyright remained with Lexis.  The ownership would have been clearer.  It’s a murky situation otherwise.  I guess the question the Court is whether the State can actually claim a copyright in this case.  The United States government, as an example, disclaims copyright in most cases, but there are exceptions.  Two of these indicated at USA.gov are:

  • Works prepared for the U.S. government by independent contractors may be protected by copyright, which may be owned by the independent contractor or by the U.S. government.
  • The U.S. government work designation does not apply to works of U.S. state and local governments. Works of state and local governments may be protected by copyright.

The complaint his available through a link with a story at The Register, which is a U.K. based technology news site.  I’m a big fan of the site due to the somewhat snarky attitude the site takes at tech news.  The story in the Register about this case notes that Georgia effectively calls Malamud a “terrorist.”  Here are the excerpts from the complaint where Georgia makes that claim:

20.  On information and belief, Defendant is employing a deliberate strategy of copying and posting large document archives such as the O.C.G.A. (including the Copyrighted Annotations) in order to force the State of Georgia to provide the O.C.G.A., in an electronic format acceptable to Defendant. Defendant’s founder and president, Carl Malamud, has indicated that this type of strategy has been a successful form of “terrorism” that he has employed in the past to force government entities to publish documents on Malamud’s terms. See Exhibit 2.

21.  Consistent with its strategy of terrorism, Defendant freely admits to the copying and distribution of massive numbers of Plaintiff’s Copyrighted Annotations on at least its https://yeswescan.org website. See Exhibit 3. Defendant also announced on the https://yeswescan.org website that it has targeted the States of Mississippi, Georgia, and Idaho and the District of Columbia for its continued, deliberate and willful copying of copyrighted portions of the annotated codes of those jurisdictions. Defendant has further posted on the https://yeswescan.org website, and delivered to Plaintiffs, a “Proclamation of Promulgation,” indicating that its deliberate and willful copying and distribution of Plaintiff’s Copyrighted Annotations would be “greatly expanded” in 2014. Defendant has further instituted public funding campaigns on a website http://www.indiegogo.com to support its continued copying and distribution of Plaintiff’s Copyrighted Annotations. Defendant has raised thousands of dollars to assist Defendant in infringing the O.C.G.A. Copyrighted Annotations.

Terrorism, seriously?  Someone explain to me how this adds to the substance of the complaint.  It’s not as if black helicopters will be circling Atlanta at the end of the trial, not over annotations at least.

Mark

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