LexisNexis and Westlaw violating copyright?

Interesting story in today’s Daily Journal:

California Courts Come Under Fire for Giving Legal Briefs to For-Profit Firms

Lawyers Challenge to State Supreme Court Practice Says Lexis, Westlaw Are Infringing on Copyright

By Amy Yarbrough and Laura Ernde
Daily Journal Staff Writers

. . .

. . . Several months ago, . . .  Irvine attorney[Ed Connor] learned the California Supreme Court had given his 143-page brief to the legal information service LexisNexis, which was making it available online for a fee. . . .

. . .

“It’s something that we just worked really hard on, and I didn’t give permission to Lexis to put it up there,” Connor said.

. . .
Last week, Connor wrote a letter to Chief Justice Ronald M. George and William Vickrey, who heads the Administrative Office of the Courts, suggesting the practice is opening the court up to legal challenges based on copyright law.

Connor said his first reaction was to file a class action lawsuit for copyright infringement against LexisNexis and Westlaw, . . .

. . .

Santa Clara University Law School professor Eric Goldman said there are legitimate legal questions about whether briefs can be copyrighted, who owns that copyright and whether the documents are free to be distributed under the Fair Use Doctrine.

. . .

9 thoughts on “LexisNexis and Westlaw violating copyright?

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  8. I noticed this phenomena quite awhile, maybe as early as 2003, can’t remember exactly, but it may have been going on before that. I couldn’t understand then how WestLaw could claim a copyright on caselaw. Obviously, they have a right to assemble a database and charge for delivery of documents that they do have a copyright on, documents that aren’t copyrighted, and, with permission, documents copyrighted by others, but if filings are copyrighted by the creator automatically, then it certainly would seem to be infringement to database and sell access to them. I would also seem to fall under the heading of fraud for a court to sell same to a private entity and imply that same has a right to redistribute same for profit. However, if I wanted to make alot of quick money from the legal profession for very little investment and I wanted to do so in a gray area that was likely unethical, I think my best protection against claims of fraud would be to cite the names of courts that sold me the information. After all, if a material percentage of the courts are selling information they don’t own with the inference that they have a lawful authority to transfer copyright ownership, then a prosecutor or jury would have a hard time finding the mens rea likely necessary for conviction.

    “But I assumed that if all those Judges were willing to sell me the copyrights, they MUST have been legal!!!!”

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