Public or Protected by Copyright: How Federal Copyright Law and State Public Record Law Intersect
20 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2012
Date Written: January 17, 2012
While United States copyright law precludes copyright protection for works produced by the federal government, state and local government agencies may claim copyright on their works. All government agencies may acquire copyrights from third parties, and with permission include copyrighted materials within their works. State and local governments must balance these copyrights with the requirements of their state’s public records law. Agency staff may mistakenly try to protect an agency copyright that does not in fact exist. Agency staff may also mistakenly believe that the agency’s copyright is waived once a record has been distributed or unwittingly contribute to infringement of copyright held by a third party by providing public record copies to the public. This paper explores the following question: Do state and local governments risk losing their copyright or risk contributory infringement of copyright by providing public records to the public?
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