Following up on an earlier blog post about the State of Georgia’s ability to copyright the annotations to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (“OCGA”), the U.S. Supreme Court finally weighed in last month. Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion, which applied the government edicts doctrine in rejecting Georgia’s infringement challenge against a non-profit advocacy group that had posted various OCGA volumes and supplements online.
Stated simply, the Supreme Court ruled that government officials cannot copyright the works they create in their official capacity. In this case, that meant that annotations authored by an arm of the Georgia legislature cannot have copyright protection. As the Eleventh Circuit stated in its underlying opinion, “the People are the ultimate authors of the annotations,” which are “inherently public domain material and therefore uncopyrightable.”