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American Law Institute’s Attempt to Impede Debate on Legal Summary Is Unfounded

The Institute’s Copyright Claim on Public Posting of Draft Restatement Is Unjustified

The American Law Institute’s demand that a Georgetown University law professor remove a public posting of the group’s controversial proposed summary of legal rules has no legal basis, Public Citizen contends.

According to ALI’s website, the draft Restatement of the Law of Consumer Contracts focuses on aspects of the law “unique to consumer contracts and on regulatory techniques that are prominently applied in consumer-protection law with examples from specific statutes and regulations.” The draft has been controversial, with several dozen consumer and civil rights groups, including Public Citizen, opposing the draft. Several state attorneys general and elected federal officials also oppose the draft.

Adam Levitin, a professor of banking and finance law, posted the draft online at Dropbox.com to give ALI members and journalists access to the document without needing to log in into ALI’s website. ALI has written to Levitin, claiming copyright infringement.

In a letter to ALI written on behalf of Levitin, Public Citizen attorney Paul Alan Levy explained that Levitin’s posting falls squarely within the statutory definition of fair use, as the purpose of the post is criticism of the draft.

According to Levy, “Considering the extent of public debate about the proposed Restatement, Levitin has performed a public service by making the full text available for public discussion before its adoption is put to a vote. ALI’s misuse of copyright to suppress that public discussion ought not be tolerated.”

“ALI historically has prided itself on being an organization that seeks to improve and clarify the law,” said Levitin. “It’s a disgrace that its professional leadership has now resorted to making baseless legal threats to suppress debate and bully member opposed to its draft.”

A copy of the letter to ALI can be found here.