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  • Writer's pictureWendi Gundersen

States are not authors when they produce annotated codes

In Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc., the Supreme Court applied the government-edicts doctrine to deny Georgia a copyright in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated ("OCGA"). The OCGA states that it is "Published Under Authority of the State" and it was produced by LexisNexis Group through its Matthew Bender & Co., Inc., under a work-for-hire agreement with the state commission responsible for producing the OCGA. The OCGA agreement states that the any copyright vests in the "State of Georgia." And the work was supervised by Georgia.

The annotations include non-binding, explanatory legal materials. But ultimately, that did not prevent the application of the government-edicts doctrine to the OCGA. The Court determined that the same logic that prevented judges from being "authors" under copyright when issuing opinions (majority or dissenting) applied to legislatures when producing law (binding and non-binding). For this reason, the Court concluded that "[b]ecause Georgia’s annotations are authored by an arm of the legislature in the course of its legislative duties, the government edicts doctrine puts them outside the reach of copyright protection."

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