Law Students Line Up Behind 'Baby Blue' -- Will Harvard Law Review Sue?

from the law-student-on-law-student-legal-action dept

Back in 2014, we wrote about a crazy story, where the Harvard Law Review was claiming copyright over legal citation standards. It's true that the Harvard Law Review Association has published the famous "Bluebook" of legal citation standards for many years, but the idea that such citations are copyrightable is crazy. In response to this, law professor Chris Sprigman and open records guru Carl Malamud alerted the world of their intention to publish "Baby Blue" -- a competing legal citations publication. They noted that the 10th edition of the Bluebook, which as published in 1958, had clearly fallen into the public domain, and they were going to use that as the starting point for their competing product. Late in December, we pointed out that Harvard Law Review freaked out after its expensive Ropes & Gray lawyers saw a few tweets from Malamud suggesting Baby Blue was almost ready for publication. On Christmas Eve, a pricey lawyer sent off a nastygram, threatening a copyright infringement lawsuit if Baby Blue were published.

It took another month and a half or so, but Baby Blue is now available -- and it appears that law students are lining up behind it, rather than the Bluebook. A bunch of folks at Yale Law School and NYU Law School have come out in support of Baby Blue. It appears other law schools are jumping on board as well -- including Harvard Law School, Stanford and more.

Meanwhile, law professor David Post has provided a bit of free legal advice for the Harvard Law Review:

Here’s a bit of free legal advice: If you want to assert copyright protection over something, don’t call it “A Uniform System of Citation” —  because systems are, by definition, unprotected by copyright. Section 102(b) of the Copyright Act couldn’t be clearer:

In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, [or] method of operation, … regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

And now... everyone gets to wait and see what the Harvard Law Review Association decides to do.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2016 @ 2:15pm

    That "by definition" doesn't apply anymore

    Methods of an API aren't able to be copyrighted "by definition" either but that didn't seem to matter to SCOTUS so I would say that argument doesn't work anymore, unfortunately.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2016 @ 2:32pm

    We have a rogue court, they will answer for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2016 @ 2:34pm

    The Law?

    Psh... what is this "law" you speak of? The "law" has not been enforced in the course or by police for a long time. The only thing being done is by judicial fiat.

    Of all the people walking around judges probably know the law the least despite needing to know it the most.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DavidMxx (profile), 11 Feb 2016 @ 3:07pm

    Remind me not to hire any lawyers that work for the Harvard Law Review if I need expert copyright law representation...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sehlat (profile), 11 Feb 2016 @ 4:11pm

    Don’t call it “A Uniform System of Citation”

    You would think lawyers for a law review would at least check the law before sending anything out.

    Somewhere the Irony Fairy is laughing her head off.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2016 @ 4:51pm

      Re: Don’t call it “A Uniform System of Citation”

      Remember when President Obama had to be sworn in a second time for his first term? "The Flub Heard Round the World?" Yeah, both men - the one taking the oath of office and the one administering it - were former honchos at the Harvard Law Review.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 15 Feb 2016 @ 9:11am

      Re: Don’t call it “A Uniform System of Citation”

      You would think lawyers for a law review would at least check the law before sending anything out.

      I'm guessing there's enough money at stake to make it worth considering filing a lawsuit even if they know it's flimsy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    LauraTee (profile), 11 Feb 2016 @ 5:20pm

    It's like watching a firehouse burn down.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      LAquaker, 12 Feb 2016 @ 1:16am

      Re: Yep

      On May 25, 1956, the fire station at Cook and McClelland burned down with a total loss. Three engines were lost as well as a personal automobile and a motorcycle.

      In October of 1957, Santa Maria’s new station No. 1 at Cook and McClelland was completed and occupied.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2016 @ 5:23pm

    Definitions

    Make like the NSA and claim a new definition of "system". Or claim a trademark on "system". Possibilities are endless!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2016 @ 5:34pm

    The fact that the original has "system" in the title doesn't mean that it doesn't contain protectable elements. Its simply facile to suggest otherwise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 11 Feb 2016 @ 8:50pm

    " Baby Blue is now available -- and it appears that law students are lining up behind it, rather than the Bluebook"

    Looks like Bluebook is getting Blueballs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 11 Feb 2016 @ 10:52pm

    And if they /do/ sue...

    "Now students, your next assignment will be to draft a counter-notice to the legal filing against Baby Blue, pointing out the various flaws within it. Please be as detailed as possible, as your filings will be examined by practicing lawyers, with your various arguments used to craft the 'official' counter-notice by the lawyers working on the case."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2016 @ 5:41am

    So, by being greedy the Harvard Law Review could lose their entire golden goose to a competitor spawned just from their greed.

    How ironic.

    It's almost like they didn't need the copyright in the first place to dominate the market.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2016 @ 7:22am

    Wait.... So Harvard's own law school is jumping on the Baby Blue bandwagon? Ya'd think that would make the Harvard Law Review re-think their position...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.