Can States Copyright Annotations to Their Own Laws?
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Can States Copyright Annotations to Their Own Laws?

ATLANTA–Increasingly, people across the U.S. are representing themselves in court for divorces, child custody agreements and other types of cases. These lawyer-free litigants often need to research the ins and outs of their cases, which involves reading their state’s laws. Annotations, which are summaries of a law along with a history and explanation of how that law has been applied in different cases, are considered key to understanding those ordinances. And they’re now under legal scrutiny. Upcoming Supreme Court case Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org Inc. will determine whether states can copyright these annotations, calling into question whether the public should have free access to this legal research tool. "If you don’t have that annotation, then you’re at a disadvantage," says state Sen. William Ligon, who chairs the Georgia commission that sued Public.Resource.Org. "Those are tools that help lead you to interpretations of code sections. And that can make the difference between winning or losing a case." Like many states, Georgia contracts with legal and business research company LexisNexis, having the company write an annotated version of the state’s laws. The state doesn’t pay LexisNexis for the service. Instead, the company charges users – including lawyers – for bundled access to […]

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