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State of Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc.

The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) is Georgia’s official code of law and is published under authority of the State of Georgia. Georgia courts routinely cite annotations and other parts of the OCGA that formally lack the force of law as nonetheless authoritative. Every element of the OCGA is finalized under the direct supervision of Georgia’s legislative branch, and the OCGA only exists because Georgia law requires that Georgia’s statutes be “merged” with other material before being published “by authority of the State” in the form of Georgia’s only official code.

This case presents the question whether the OCGA should be freely available to the public, or whether it is subject to a copyright. Working with law professor Nina Mendelson, Public Citizen represented four law professors as amici curiae, agreeing with the Eleventh Circuit ruling that the government edicts exception to copyright-ability extends to the entire Official Code of Georgia Annotated. The brief urges the Court to reaffirm the application of the government edicts doctrine to all text that a government has adopted as the law. In particular, the brief argues that the government edicts doctrine applies to all federal regulatory text with the force of law, including language that federal agencies have adopted from private drafters through incorporation by reference.

Agreeing with our argument that the government edicts doctrine applies, the Court held that the annotations in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated are ineligible for copyright protection because the government edicts doctrine applies to the work of legislators in their capacity as legislators.