If No One Owns the Law, Who Owns the Statutory Annotations?

By Mary Hallerman Last week, the Supreme Court held in Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc., that legislators cannot copyright any works that they created in the course of their official duties. Though the holding may appear straightforward and narrow, the Court unearthed the centuries-old government edicts doctrine to reach its decision and emphasized the importance of the circumstances of creation in determining copyright ownership. What led to the Supreme Court’s excavation of the government edicts doctrine? Oddly enough, alleged infringement on the Internet. A nonprofit, Public.Resource.Org, published the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (“OCGA”) online without Georgia’s permission. As the name suggests,   Read More »

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Supreme Court: Statute Exposing States to Claims of Copyright Infringement Must Walk the Plank

By Daniel M. Staren and David G. Barker Today a unanimous Supreme Court struck down the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act of 1990 (“CRCA”), which sought to expose States to copyright infringement suits. See 17 U.S.C. § 511(a). The Court’s decision in Allen v. Cooper affirmed a Fourth Circuit decision holding that neither Congress’s Article I powers nor Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment granted Congress constitutional authority to enact the CRCA. In 1996, North Carolina hired Frederick Allen to document the State’s efforts to recover the shipwrecked remains of Queen Ann’s Revenge, the flagship vessel of pirate Edward Teach—Blackbeard. Allen   Read More »

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Led Zeppelin Ruling Overturns Ninth Circuit’s ‘Inverse Ratio Rule’

By Shalayne L. Pillar and David G. Barker On March 9, 2020, Led Zeppelin won a major copyright battle over claims that they stole part of their signature song “Stairway to Heaven.”  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling en banc, upheld a 2016 jury verdict that cleared the band of infringing a 1967 instrumental ballad titled “Taurus” by the band Spirit.  The ruling overturned a 2018 decision by a panel of three Ninth Circuit judges that held the trial judge failed to inform jurors that unprotectable elements could be protected by copyright law when arranged in creative ways (see   Read More »

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Google v. Oracle Heads to the Supreme Court

By Andy Halaby The Supreme Court’s cert grant on the Federal Circuit’s most recent decision in the long-running and highly publicized battle between Oracle and Google appears to confront policy questions as much as legal ones — such as whether the nation’s economy would be better or worse off, and under what circumstances, allowing software developers to copy others’ application programming interfaces without paying for them.  That the Court granted cert, notwithstanding the Solicitor General’s urging it not too, suggests the Court may be prepared to tackle those questions. Google’s petition challenges the Federal Circuit’s determinations that •  certain of   Read More »

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House Approves Legislation to Create Copyright Small Claims Board

By Shalayne L. Pillar and David G. Barker On October 22, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 410-6 in favor of the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019, or CASE Act.  If passed into law, the CASE Act would create a voluntary small claims board within the U.S. Copyright Office, called the Copyright Claims Board.  Lawsuits filed under the CASE Act would allow recovery up to $30,000, with a cap of $15,000 for statutory damages per work infringed. The CASE Act seeks to address the high cost of copyright litigation, which often limits the ability of small   Read More »

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