Code Revision Comm'n v. Pub., Inc.

Citation244 F.Supp.3d 1350
Decision Date23 March 2017
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 1:15–CV–2594–RWS
Parties CODE REVISION COMMISSION and State of Georgia, Plaintiffs, v. PUBLIC.RESOURCE.ORG, INC., Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Georgia

Anthony B. Askew, Lisa Pavento, Warren James Thomas, Meunier Carlin & Curfman, LLC, Atlanta, GA, for Plaintiff.

Elizabeth Hannah Rader, Alston & Bird, LLP, Washington, DC, Sarah Parker LaFantano, Jason D. Rosenberg, Alston & Bird, LLP, Atlanta, GA, for Defendant.


RICHARD W. STORY, United States District Judge

This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 29] and Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 30].

I. Factual Background

Plaintiff Code Revision Commission ("Commission") is composed of the Lieutenant Governor, four members of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, four additional members of the House of Representatives, and four members appointed by the State Bar of Georgia, one of whom is a judge or senior judge of the State Superior Courts and one of whom is a State district attorney. O.C.G.A., Foreword at x. The Commission assists the Georgia legislature in publishing the laws it enacts in the Official Code of Georgia ("O.C.G.A.") [Doc. No. 29–1, ¶ 12, admitted; Doc. No. 17, ¶ 82]. The Commission was created by the General Assembly in 1977 and was tasked with selecting a publishing firm "possessing the necessary expertise and manpower to accomplish a complete remodification [of the state's laws] as quickly as possible." O.C.G.A., Foreword at ix-x. From five law publishers, the Commission selected The Michie Company to prepare and publish what would become the O.C.G.A. and entered into a contract. Id. at x.

The Commission itself developed the uniform numbering system and rules of style used in the new (1981) Code and adopted an arrangement into 53 Code titles. Id. at xi. Upon completion of the editorial process, a manuscript entitled the Code of Georgia 1981 Legislative Edition was prepared, presented to the General Assembly, and enacted at the 1981 extraordinary session of the General Assembly [Doc. No. 29–1, ¶ 19, admitted]. Annotations, indexes, editorial notes, and other materials have been added to that manuscript to produce the O.C.G.A., the first official Code to be published under authority of the State of Georgia since the Code of 1933 [Id. ].

On October 3, 2006, the Commission issued a Request for Proposals, and on December 27, 2006, the Commission entered a new Agreement for Publication ("Agreement") with Matthew Bender & Co. Inc. ("Lexis/Nexis") [Doc. No. 29–1, ¶ 20, admitted; Doc. No. 29–8]. The Agreement requires the official Code to include not only the statutory provisions, but also "annotations, captions, catchlines, headings, history lines, editorial notes, cross-references, indices, title and chapter analyses, research references, amendment notes, Code Commission notes, and other material related to or included in such Code at the direction of the Commission" [Doc. No. 29–8, p. 2]. Each O.C.G.A. volume and supplement therefore contains statutory text and non-statutory annotation text, including judicial decision summaries, editor's notes, research references, notes on law review articles, summaries of the opinions of the Attorney General of Georgia, indexes, and title, chapter, article, part, and subpart captions, which are all prepared by Lexis/Nexis under the requirements of the Agreement [Doc. No. 17, ¶¶ 1–3, 9, 18, and 26].

The Agreement provides that the Commission, not its hired publisher, has "the ultimate right of editorial control" both over all material contained in the O.C.G.A. and over what material is selected to become part of the O.C.G.A. [Doc. No. 29–8, p. 2]. The Agreement requires Lexis/Nexis to follow the Commission's detailed publication manual, which "reflect[s] those specific content, style and publishing standards of the Code as adopted, approved or amended from time to time by the Commission or its staff pursuant to Code Section 28–9–3 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated" [Id. ]. Additionally, the Agreement requires that Lexis/Nexis summarize "all published opinions of the Georgia Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals of Georgia, and all published opinions of the United States Supreme Court and other federal courts that arose in Georgia and construed Georgia general statutes, whether such decisions favor plaintiffs, defendants, or the prosecution" [Id. , p. 4]. The Agreement similarly provides that research references and legislative history are included in the O.C.G.A. [Id. , pp. 5–6].

The Agreement requires that Lexis/Nexis provide Georgia's statutes in an un-annotated form on a website that the public can access for free using the Internet [Doc. No. 29–8, pp. 12–13; Doc. No. 17, ¶¶ 73–75]. The free public website contains only the statutory text and numbering of the O.C.G.A. [Doc. No. 17, ¶¶ 73, 75]. The Agreement requires Lexis/Nexis to track usage of the un-annotated Code and to report annually to the Commission the amount of usage and the effect of subscriptions to the Code in print and on CD–ROM [Doc. No. 29–8, p. 13]. The Agreement requires Lexis/Nexis to provide appropriate copyright notice on both the free public website and the online O.C.G.A. available as part of the Lexis/Nexis for-profit online services and to notify visitors that any reproduction of the O.C.G.A. other than the statutory text and numbering is prohibited [Doc. No. 29–8, p. 13].

In Georgia, Lexis/Nexis has the exclusive right to publish and sell the O.C.G.A. as a printed publication, on CD–ROM and in an online version, and Lexis/Nexis receives income from its sales of the O.C.G.A. [Doc. No. 17, ¶¶ 84–85]. The Commission, however, only receives royalties from the licensing fee for the CD–ROM and online versions of the O.C.G.A. [Doc. No. 29–1, ¶ 37, admitted]. In fiscal year 2014, the Commission received $85,747.91 in licensing fee royalties [Id. , ¶ 38, admitted].

To make the O.C.G.A., including the annotations, available on the Internet, Public Resource purchased all 186 printed volumes and supplements of the O.C.G.A., scanned them all, and then posted those copies on its website: [Doc.No. 17, ¶¶ 34–36]. Public Resource also distributed copies of the entirety of the O.C.G.A. contained on USB thumb drives to the Speaker of the House, Georgia House of Representatives, Mr. Wayne Allen, Legislative Counsel, Office of Legislative Counsel, Georgia General Assembly, and other members of the State of Georgia legislature [Id. , ¶¶ 63–64]. Public Resource actively encourages all citizens to copy, use, and disseminate the O.C.G.A. volumes and to create works containing them [Doc. No. 29–1, ¶ 74, admitted].

This action was filed on July 21, 2015 [Doc. No. 1]. On October 8, 2015, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint with claims for direct and indirect copyright infringement [Doc. No. 11], Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief and removal of any infringing materials from the Internet [Id. ]. Defendant filed a Counterclaim which seeks a judgment of non-infringement [Doc. No. 16].

After the Commission commenced this action, Public Resource purchased and copied the 2015 volumes and supplements of the O.C.G.A. and posted them on its website [Id. , ¶ 46]. In addition, Public Resource posted the copies on the Internet archive website, [Id. , ¶¶ 50–52, 54–56].

II. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 requires that summary judgment be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). "The moving party bears ‘the initial responsibility of informing the ... court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.’ " Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co. , 357 F.3d 1256, 1260 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (internal quotations omitted)). Where the moving party makes such a showing, the burden shifts to the non-movant, who must go beyond the pleadings and present affirmative evidence to show that a genuine issue of material fact does exist. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 257, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

The applicable substantive law identifies which facts are material. Id. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505. A fact is not material if a dispute over that fact will not affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. An issue is genuine when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 249–50, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

In resolving a motion for summary judgment, the court must view all evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Patton v. Triad Guar. Ins. Corp. , 277 F.3d 1294, 1296 (11th Cir. 2002). But the court is bound only to draw those inferences that are reasonable. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial." Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc. , 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) ). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson , 477 U.S. at 249–50, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (internal citations omitted); see also Matsushita , 475 U.S. at 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (once the moving party has met its burden under Rule 56(a), the nonmoving party "must do more than simply show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts").

III. Analysis

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