Update: On April 27, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the annotations in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated are ineligible for copyright protection.
Reporters Committee attorneys filed an amicus brief in Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, a copyright case before the United States Supreme Court. The case concerns whether Georgia can copyright its only official annotated code. (The state claims copyright in only the annotations, not the statutory text, but the practical effect is to deny access to the entire official code.) In a series of 19th Century cases, the Supreme Court announced the government edicts doctrine, which prevents governments from copyrighting the law. RCFP’s amicus brief argues that although precedent does not make clear the source of that doctrine, it should be understood as flowing from the First Amendment. The right of access to the law under the government edicts doctrine is analogous to the First Amendment right of access to judicial proceedings. And grounding the government edicts doctrine in the First Amendment makes clear that Georgia’s annotated code cannot be copyrighted. The brief also argues that public policy cuts against permitting states to copyright their official codes, because access to them is important for the press and the public.