Free Law Victory: 11th Circuit Strikes Down Georgia Code Copyright

Open access is, as a matter of principle at least, fairly non-controversial in most democracies; the idea that ignorance of the law is no excuse quite naturally gives birth to the idea that the law should be widely known. – Thomas Bruce, Cornell Legal Information Institute

In a victory for the U.S. free law community, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal handed down a decision late last week ruling that no valid copyright exists for any part of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA). The case involved a dispute over the assertion by Georgia State Assembly (the “Assembly”) of copyright of the annotations of the OCGA. The Code Revision Commission of Georgia, on behalf of the Assembly brought suit in federal court to enforce this copyright against, an organization dedicated to publishing and sharing public domain materials.

Noting that the public must have access to the laws that govern them, the Court concluded that at the end of the day, the annotations in the OCGA were the work of “the People” and thus,

“…the People are the ultimate authors of the annotations. As a work of the People the annotations are inherently public domain material and therefore uncopyrightable.”

The decision is seen as a key victory for the U.S. free law community in their work to make sure the laws of the land are freely available and accessible to all.

More Resources:

Code Revision Commission v., 11th Cir., October 19, 2018.

Appeals Court Tells Georgia: State Code Can’t be Copyrighted, Electronic Frontier Foundation, October 23, 2018.