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Georgia's Official Code Annotated is not copyrightable


On April 27, 2020, the US Supreme Court held that the State of Georgia's Official Code Annotated is not copyrightable (see Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc., No. 18-1150 (Sup. Ct) hosted on Mega.nz). The Annotated Code includes not only the laws but also annotations to judicial opinions, opinions of the state attorney general, and other secondary resources. The Annotated Code is updated by the Code Revision Commission which is mostly made up of state legislators. The Commission is funded by the State and it is staffed by the Office of Legislative Counsel which services the legislative branch. Every year the Commission submits proposed changes to the legislature which then approves the Annotated Code. The Commission contracted with LexisNexis to assist in the preparation of the Annotated Code. In return, LexisNexis can sell copies of the Annotated Code but must make a non-annotated version of the Code available for free. The Supreme Court found that under the government edicts doctrine, legislators and judges cannot be authors and in the course of their duties, that the Annotated Code is prepared in the course of the legislators duties, and that therefore the Annotated Code is not copyrightable. The majority opinion took issue with the fact that a Georgia citizen using the "economy class" or non-annotated version of the Code would be disadvantaged compared to a citizen using the "first-class" or annotated version (Opinion at 17).

It will be interesting to see the effect of this ruling as a number of states have similar arrangements with third-party services providers to produce their annotated versions of their laws.

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