Copyright Law

Fastcase can bring copyright suit against Casemaker, 11th Circuit rules

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Ed Walters, CEO at Fastcase. Photograph by Arnold Adler.

Legal research company Fastcase can bring a suit against rival company Casemaker regarding the latter’s claims of control over Georgia’s administrative regulations, ruled the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Atlanta.

The appeal, decided Monday, stemmed from two previously unsuccessful lawsuits brought by Fastcase against Casemaker, which is owned by Lawriter, both of which were dismissed. U.S. Circuit Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat writing for the unanimous panel found that the most recent case, filed in February 2017, was incorrectly dismissed.

“This is a procedural win that allows us to go to the district court, to hear this case on its merits,” Fastcase CEO Ed Walters told the ABA Journal. “Now, the district court can decide if a private company can lock up a public law with terms of service or a copyright.”

At issue is an agreement that Casemaker made with the Georgia secretary of state, which gives them exclusive publishing rights to the Georgia regulations. This agreement also gives Casemaker the capability to license that content to others for a fee.

Having brought two previous cases, this appeal affects the latter filed in 2017. In that case, U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten dismissed Fastcase’s claims for lack of jurisdiction. Dismissing without prejudice, Batten ruled that the claims did not present a cause of action under federal law and failed to meet the $75,000 amount in controversy.

The appeals court disagreed on both grounds, finding that there was jurisdiction. The case has been remanded back to the trial court.

Casemaker did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This decision comes on the heels of a separate 11th Circuit ruling from last week that found Georgia’s official annotated state code is not copyrightable and belongs in the public domain.

Walters thinks last week’s ruling puts his lawsuit on strong footing, and he’s optimistic about the coming case.

While praising Casemaker and its team, he says in the attempt to control Georgia’s administrative code they “lost their way, and we’re going to help them find their way back.”

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