Georgia v. Public Resource Org, Inc.

Court: Georgia Supreme Court
Case Number: 18-1150
Decision Date: April 27, 2020
Case Type: Copyright
Georgia's Code Revision Commission, acting on behalf of the Georgia Legislature and State of Georgia, brought an action against a nonprofit organization, Public.Resource.Org (PRO), the purpose of which is facilitating public access to legal materials, alleging that the organization's publication of Georgia's official annotated code infringed on State's copyright in the work.


In 2015, the Georgia Code Revision Commission sued PRO, for copyright infringement. The Commission argued that PRO could not distribute copies of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.). PRO disagreed, arguing the O.C.G.A. was in the public domain. The key issue was whether the government edicts doctrine extends to—and thus renders uncopyrightable—works that lack the force of law, such as the annotations in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.
 
The Northern District of Georgia ruled in favor of the Commission and barred PRO from distributing the O.C.G.A. materials. On appeal, the 11th Circuit concluded that the State of Georgia had no valid copyright over the O.C.G.A. The State of Georgia appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal's decision holding that "under the government edicts doctrine, officials empowered to speak with the force of law cannot be the authors of the works they create in the course of their official duties." Therefore, "the O.C.G.A. annotations are ineligible for copyright protection.”