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Thread: copyright and hosting public court rulings

  1. #1
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    Default copyright and hosting public court rulings

    Government websites appear to be pretty good at keeping records of rulings. I often see news groups and others hosting pdfs of rulings on their sites. I don't mind linking to these rulings for reference purposes, but occasionally they get moved around and I have to look for them all over again and then update my links.

    I don't know as I want to do this just yet, but would it be legal to host some supreme court or federal court rulings that have been made available to the public on my site?
    Last edited by james438; 05-14-2014 at 11:10 PM. Reason: split a paragraph
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    In the language of the court or court officials of the court making the ruling the information is a matter of public record. You would just be reporting the news. If however you were to take a news report about a ruling that did more than simply list the language of the court or court officials of the court, then you would be plagiarizing. Ultimately you would probably get into no trouble either way unless you caused an author/reporter harm in doing so (usually in a case like this if revenue went to you that the original reporter would otherwise have received or you provide for free original content that the reporter/author routinely charged for, but other harms could be involved, like reputation). Public officials cannot claim these harms if the language they published was in the execution of their official duties because it's news. Reports about it that interpret it, opine on it, etc., by third parties can be copyright. But again the mere repetition, even in the later case is usually "harmless". Finally even when there is a real or imagined harm, a request to cease and desist usually precedes any real trouble.

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    james438 (05-14-2014)

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    Thank you for that explanation. I may start hosting some of these rulings for sites that like to frequently move their files around or just keep poor records.

    I could consult a lawyer. There are forums where I can ask legal questions about internet issues, but this seemed like a very minor legal question and dynamicdrive feels like an appropriate place to bring it up.
    Last edited by james438; 05-14-2014 at 11:41 PM.
    To choose the lesser of two evils is still to choose evil. My personal site

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    In my opinion if you follow Copyright Office’s Guidelines for educational fair use you should be OK. Anyway you could also consult Fair Use Cases (fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/fair-use/cases/), but I couldn't find anything dealing with court rulings publication.

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