The Law as Uncopyrightable: Merging Idea and Expression Within the Eleventh Circuit’s Analysis of 'Law-Like' Writing

32 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2019

See all articles by Christina Frohock

Christina Frohock

University of Miami - School of Law

Date Written: June 25, 2019

Abstract

The Eleventh Circuit recently issued an opinion in Code Revision Commission v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc. that meditates on the law as much as resolves a dispute. For that reason alone, attention should be paid. A commission acting on behalf of the Georgia General Assembly and the State of Georgia filed a copyright infringement action against a nonprofit organization that had disseminated annotated state statutes. The Eleventh Circuit took these modest facts and delivered a philosophical analysis of the nature of law, finding that statutory annotations are outside copyright protection because the true author of such “law-like” writing is “the People.” The court’s opinion respects democracy by amplifying the voice of the People. Such amplification works best, however, on narrow facts. Applied broadly, in line with the scope of the court’s philosophy, the opinion risks distorting the People’s voice by muting intragovernmental disagreements.That voice is more often cacophony than clarion call, and the loudest strain comes from the least representative branch. Focusing on the exercise of sovereign authority, a different area of copyright law supports the same case outcome. The law, along with law-like annotations, is uncopyrightable because its idea and its official expression merge.

Keywords: Copyright, Intellectual Property, Eleventh Circuit, Statutes, Annotations, Merger

Suggested Citation

Frohock, Christina, The Law as Uncopyrightable: Merging Idea and Expression Within the Eleventh Circuit’s Analysis of 'Law-Like' Writing (June 25, 2019). University of Miami Law Review, Vol. 73, 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3410664

Christina Frohock (Contact Author)

University of Miami - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 248087
Coral Gables, FL 33146
United States

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