Supreme Court Says States Cannot Copyright Official Code Annotations

April 27, 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court today concluded that states cannot copyright the annotations in their official codes. The case, Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, concerned Georgia’s claim to a copyright in its official annotated code. Twenty-five other jurisdictions also claim copyrights to their official code annotations. The Court concluded that those with “authority to make or interpret the law”—such as judges and legislatures—cannot copyright their official works. EPIC filed an amicus brief in the case, signed by thirty-five experts in law and technology. EPIC’s brief urged the Supreme Court “to recognize that free access to the law is not only guaranteed by our country’s traditions but also enabled by digital technologies.” EPIC explained that “the federal government has worked to ensure that government materials, including legal materials, are broadly accessible to the public; the states should do the same.” EPIC has worked for decades to promote online access to judicial opinions and open access to government information. EPIC routinely files amicus briefs in the US Supreme Court in cases concerning emerging privacy and civil liberties issues.

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