Bumped with an update from Senator McKoon below the fold.
In some universe, this might make sense: The Code Revision Commission (chaired by State Senator Josh McKoon) has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Carl Malamud, threatening to sue him for publishing the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, because: “The State of Georgia, acting through the Georgia Code Revision Commission, is the owner of a copyright in various aspects of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated. Under United States copyright law, the State of Georgia’s copyright has been in effect since the original date of creation of such official Code in 1983. All copyrightable aspects of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated are copyrighted under United States copyright law.” Full text here. (pdf) TechDirt has a take and lots of opinion here. Mr. Malamud has, of course, declined, and made some counter-arguments that appear to make sense to a non-lawyer like me.
Why on earth would the State of Georgia assert a copyright in this instance? The law and the text of the law and judicial opinions are the property of the State (and by extension, the people) and unless somebody’s making money off this, what’s the point of trying to prevent people publishing stuff that the public owns?
UPDATE: I received the following from Senator McKoon.
“The State of Georgia owns the copyright to the non-statutory materials, such as case annotations, notes, etc., that are included in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated. These aspects of the O.C.G.A. are not part of any statutory language. To put it another way, no one is asserting that the actual text of any Georgia statute is copyrighted.
However, the non-statutory content (produced for the state as a work-for-hire by the enormous efforts of a private third party) is protected by the state’s copyright. That copyright allows the state to enter into an arrangement with a private company to manage and publish the O.C.G.A. The official publisher’s only compensation from the state for its enormous work each year is the exclusive distribution right which the state, as owner of the copyright, grants to that publisher. This arrangement was set up to avoid the necessity of having to spend taxpayer funds to compensate the publisher. If the state were to fail to defend its copyright, the practical consequence would be the state would have to take on all of the effort to update maintain the O.C.G.A. as well as publication costs. This would undoubtedly increase the cost to individual taxpayers for the state to shoulder this burden. Furthermore, the state would likely lose the royalties it currently receives from the official publisher for sublicensing the O.C.G.A. to others. It would therefore be shirking our duty both under existing contracts as well as our fiduciary duty to taxpayers to get the most value for every tax dollar entrusted to us not to fully prosecute our copyright to the copyrightable aspects of the O.C.G.A. That is why we transmitted a cease and desist letter and will take further action as required to protect the copyright in this matter.”
H/t: Creative Loafing