Trials & Litigation

Fastcase sues Casemaker for takedown demand, says Georgia administrative rules can't be copyrighted

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In the latest battle over attempts to assign and enforce publishing rights over state law, two online legal research services are girding up for a federal court fight.

Responding to a December takedown demand from Lawriter LLC, which does business as Casemaker, the competing Fastcase Inc. filed suit in federal court in Atlanta last week. It is seeking a declaratory judgment that the material at issue—the Georgia Administrative Rules & Regulations—can’t be copyrighted, reports Bob Ambrogi‚Äôs LawSites.

Casemaker “cannot claim a valid copyright or an exclusive license to a valid copyright,” says Fastcase in its complaint (PDF). “It is well established in American law that state laws, including administrative rules and regulations, are not copyrightable, and must remain public as a matter of due process.”

In a 2014 interview with the ABA Journal, Fastcase CEO Ed Walters said: “Publishers should have the right to protect the stuff they add in. We add in stuff too, and we would like to protect that. The point is that public law should be available to everyone so that anyone can create value on top of it. That way, people can create all kinds of wonderful products that are available to anyone. There will never be any innovation otherwise.”

The LawSites article doesn’t include any comment from Casemaker. Its parent company, Lawriter, is exclusive publisher of Georgia Administrative Rules and Regulations and has the right to license the material to others, under a contract with Georgia’s secretary of state. In July 2015, Georgia sued Public.Resource.Org, a nonprofit founded by Carl Malamud, for making the Official Code of Georgia Annotated available online.

Related coverage:

ABA Journal: “Who owns the law? Technology reignites the war over just how public documents should be”

ABAJournal.com: “Georgia sues Carl Malamud group, calls publishing state’s annotated code of laws online unlawful”

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