The state of Georgia and the Code Revision Commission achieved a victory when a federal court granted their motion for summary judgment, holding that Georgia’s “Official Code of Georgia Annotated” (OCGA) was protected by copyright and Public.Resource.Org, Inc.’s duplication of the statutes online were not fair use.
The lawsuit was filed after Public.Resource.Org allegedly scanned a copy of the OCGA and uploaded it online for the public. Public.Resource.Org asserted that denying the public’s access to the OCGA would prevent Georgia citizens from fully understanding their rights or obeying the law.
The court held that the annotations, which included “judicial decision summaries, editor’s notes, research references, notes on law review articles” were original creative works entitled to copyright protection. It also held that Public.Resource.Org’s actions are not excused under the fair use doctrine, since Public.Resource.Org acted in its own interest and not for educational or nonprofit purposes, it copied every single word, and it created substantial economic harm to Georgia since consumers would use the free resource instead of purchasing the OCGA.
The court also pointed out the Copyright Act already specifically states that annotated works are protected by copyright.
TAKEAWAY: Although statutes themselves are not copyrightable subject matter, annotations and commentary may be viewed as protectable.