A city building code can be owned by a private organization, according to apanel of one federal circuit court. In Veeck v. Southern Building CodeCongress International Inc., over a strong dissent, two judges of the U.S.Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found copyright infringement where anindividual posted a privately developed model building code on the Internetafter the code had been adopted into law by several municipalities. Rejecting defenses of fair use, merger, due process, waiver, freedom ofspeech (First Amendment) and copyright misuse, the majority found that the modelcode did not enter the public domain when enacted into law. The court went on tofind that the enacted codes were sufficiently available to the public, eitherthrough government offices or by purchase from the copyright owner, that thepublic was not denied reasonable access to and knowledge of the law due to thecopyright claimed in the work. Other courts have found that there can be no copyright in judicial opinionsand legislative enactments. In 1888, the Supreme Court held in Banks v.Manchester that a private compilation of court decisions was in the publicdomain since judicial opinions are issued by publicly paid judges and the publichas an overriding interest in free access to the law. Similarly, in 1898, Supreme Court Justice Harlan, sitting as a circuit judgein Howell v. Miller, found that copyright could not exist in statutes, even ifprivately printed. More recently, in the 1980 decision in Building Officials and Code Adm. V.Code Tech., Inc., the First Circuit expressed doubt that a copyright couldbe enforced in a privately created building code once that code was adopted intolaw. The Fifth Circuit panel attempted to distinguish the prior Supreme Court andcircuit decisions primarily by reliance upon: (1) a case holding that "RedBook" car valuations were entitled to copyright protection even though theywere used for calculating insurance...
Who Owns the Law?
|Author:||Mr Paul Kilmer|
|Profession:||Holland & Knight LLP|
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