Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright
  • Date Filed: June 24, 2019
  • Case #: 18-1150
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 906 F.3d 1229 (11th Cir. 2018)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the government edicts doctrine extends to––and thus renders uncopyrightable––works that lack the force of law, such as the annotations in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.

The State of Georgia appointed a Code Revision Commission in 1977 to assist with re-codifying its laws and subsequently adopted a manuscript created under the Commission’s supervision. After its adoption, non-statutory annotations were added to the manuscript now known as the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA). The State recognized that only the statutory portion of OCGA has “the force of law.” Respondent used the text for redistribution to paying users of the legal world. The State filed an infringement suit in district court and obtained injunctive relief. The Eleventh Circuit reversed, holding that under the government edicts doctrine, the OCGA are not copyrightable. Because the court reversed on this ground alone, it did not address Respondent’s merger or fair use defenses. The court based its decision on the premise of “public authorship,” criticizing the district court for using a bright-line rule, ignoring matters of public policy for which it considered vital to the issue. The State argues that the decision widens an already growing circuit split and that the annotations here would be copyrightable in four other circuits, which have all held that the “force of law” is necessary to deem a government work uncopyrightable.  The State asserts that uniformity among the courts is “vitally important to the functioning of state governments.” Furthermore, Petitioner states that the decision below is wrong.

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