Copyright Law

Federal judge rules cannot print annotations to official Georgia state code

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Carl Malamud is the founder of ABA file photo by Tony Avelar.

A federal judge in Georgia has dealt another blow.

In a Tuesday story from the Daily Report, an Atlanta federal district judge ruled that the state of Georgia can copyright annotations to its official state code and that cannot print those annotations on its website without a license. CEO and open law advocate Carl Malamud had argued that the annotations were part of the official code and, therefore, were not copyrightable. “I don’t really care about the [annotated] case summaries, but they are part and parcel of the Official Code of Georgia,” Malamud told the Daily Report. Malamud stated that the first law in the official Georgia code warns against relying on unofficial, unannotated versions of the code and that he official code is the one that people must follow.

U.S. District Judge Richard Story acknowledged the unusual nature of having annotations as part of the official code, pointing out that most official codes are unannotated. Nevertheless, he found for the state of Georgia, citing a list of precedents allowing states to copyright annotations and other additions to the law.

“The creation of the annotations requires a tremendous amount of work from a team of editors,” Story wrote in his opinion. “These efforts confirm that the annotations are original works entitled to broad copyright protection.”

Story’s decision comes a month after a federal judge in Washington, D.C., enjoined Malamud from printing model rules and regulations from standards-development organizations. Malamud, who has said that he will appeal the D.C. injunction, will also appeal Story’s decision. In the meantime, he told his Twitter followers that he would comply with Story’s order and take down the Georgia code. “I fought the law and the law won,” Malamud tweeted, quoting lyrics from a Clash song.

At the 2016 ABA Annual Meeting, the policymaking House of Delegates passed Resolution 112, which asked Congress to pass legislation requiring federal agencies to make the relevant portion of those privately drafted standards available to the public online.

Updated at 5:53 p.m. to clarify headline.

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