Are Legal Briefs Filed With A Court Covered By Copyright?
from the yes,-but... dept
As you know, unique content is automatically covered by copyright as soon as it's expressed in some permanent form. And considering that most filings are unique works (not boilerplate stuff), there's a pretty strong argument that they should be covered by copyright (and, in theory, a lawyer could register the works, though I would doubt that's common). This isn't necessarily a good thing and doesn't make much real sense -- but it's the sort of bizarre situation you end up in when you automatically put copyright on any form of expression. While some are arguing that since the document has been filed publicly in court, it's now public material and can be reposted, it's not at all clear the law supports that position. Of course, the law probably should make this clear. Allowing copyright on legal filings would create quite a mess. It would seem like there's a very strong public interest/fair use claim on why it should be fair for anyone to redistribute such documents (whether for profit or not), but we may soon find out what a court has to say about that.