Copyright in State Legal Materials – Looking Back to 1888

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear argument in Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org Inc. in about two months, with petitioner’s briefs already in, and respondent’s briefs were submitted yesterday.  The question presented is fairly simple and a matter of law – “Whether the government edicts doctrine [(that they are not protectable by copyright)] extends to—and thus renders uncopyrightable—works that lack the force of law, such as the annotations in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.”

As the 11th Circuit noted below, in holding that the annotations could not be protected by copyright, the Supreme Court addressed this question three times in the nineteenth century, but not since.  Those three cases will be what the Supreme Court will be basing its decision on, but two of them are quite obscure.  So as not to bury the lede, the archival contribution of this post is that I’ve scanned the briefs from one of these cases – Banks v. Manchester – and shared them online (the other two were already available)- you can access them here.  I also scanned the case file from the U.S. National Archives, comprising mainly correspondence between the parties and the Court – you can download the PDF here. Continue reading “Copyright in State Legal Materials – Looking Back to 1888”