US non-profit organisation sued for re-publishing the law

Public.Resource.Org is a nonprofit organisation that is attempting to digitise and publish copies of all public domain government records in the United States. Its owner, Carl Malamud, believes “the law belongs to the people and in our system of democracy we have the right to read, know, and speak the laws by which we choose to govern ourselves.”

The State of Georgia is suing Malamud for publishing a copy of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA), claiming it is a breach of the government’s copyright. Its statement of claim accuses Malamud of a “strategy of terrorism” by publishing copies of the law. Georgia does not publish a copy of the law itself, and instead refers its citizens to for-profit law publisher LexisNexis.

On the government side of the argument, the formatting and annotations of the OCGA may be subject to copyright. However, Malamud argues that because Georgia has designated the annotated version of the law as the official version, they must be in the public domain.

Many of the annotations in the OCGA (such as the history of amendments to a section) are a standard feature of the official versions of Australian laws. The Commonwealth and Victorian governments provide free PDF copies of all laws and regulations, and also allow groups such as AustLII and Jade to republish the documents. Jade adds additional annotations and owns the copyright to those.

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