Georgia law books at center of Supreme Court drama

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The official version of Georgia’s laws is front and center before the Supreme Court Monday. The law can’t be copyrighted but the official law books may be a different story.

Supreme Court will decide whether all of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated belongs to the public. (Source: Gray DC)

Georgia’s official code contains more than just the letter of the law. That extra content – like summaries of relevant court decisions – creates a sticky legal question: can the whole book be freely-published online?

Cameras aren’t allowed in the Supreme Court, but after arguments, we caught up with lawyers from both sides of the case.

Eric Citron argued for Public.Resource.Org, a website that copied the Official Code of Georgia Annotated and published it online. "There’s a lot of stuff in the official Georgia code that could be useful to citizens who are trying to figure out what the laws mean," he said.

Citron said said because the notes are put together for the state, and are included in the official law book – anyone can freely copy them just like the law itself. He said it’s clear to him that some of the justices, agreed with his arguments, while others almost certainly didn't. "And there are a few that are hard to read," he added, "my guess, it will be a close case."

Georgia’s attorney Joshua Johnson argues the notes deserve copyright protection, and publishing them alongside the laws in the official book doesn’t change that.

He said Georgia won’t be able to get an outside company to put together its official book anymore if Supreme Court blocks the state from protecting the company’s exclusive right to sell the official code.

Georgia wouldn’t be the only state forced to adapt.

"It would be disruptive," said Johnson, "those states would have to figure out a new way of publishing their official codes."

Neither side expects this case to break down along conservative or liberal lines. It may be summer before the court reaches a decision.

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