Supreme Court Rules Against States’ Copyrights of Annotated Codes

gavel-2492011_1920 - pixabay - 4.29.20The Supreme Court ruled that states cannot copyright their annotated codes potentially upending copyrights held by 22 states. 

The court’s 5-4 decision in Georgia et al v., inc. upholds an appellate court ruling against the state. The appellate court found that because George’s laws are developed in the course of the legislature’s duty they cannot be protected by copyright.

Route Fifty reports on the specifics of the case:

The state’s official code is available to the public for free, but Georgia has an agreement with the data collection company LexisNexis to allow it exclusive access to sell volumes of the annotated version. Under the agreement, the company writes the annotations under the supervision of the state’s Code Revision Commission and sells volumes of the annotated code for $412. Georgia’s receives royalties from those sales.

The article reports that in issuing the court’s opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that states would be free to simply monetize their statutes and legislative works for only those who were able to pay for the benefit.

According to an NSCL survey, Maryland does not have a copyright on the state’s code.

For more information:

Supreme Court Rules Georgia Can’t Copyright State Code (Route Fifty)


State Statutes/Code: Holder of Copyright (NCSL)