Are taxonomai copyrightable?
October 26, 2000 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Are taxonomai copyrightable? This topic isn't new; West Publishing stole their legal referencing system from the government, then copyrighted it and successfully sued a couple people out of business. But should it be possible? [Hint: Hell, no!]
posted by baylink (7 comments total)
I don't this is really fair to West. West and several other companies took the publicly available text of judicial decision and created their own distinct referencing, annotation and pagination systems ... for which they claimed copyright, not for the underlying text.

West was so successful in making its system of annotation and pagination and distribution of judicial decisions the standard (i.e., the only practical and acceptable way to cite to non-Supreme Court decisions was to cite to their West report volume and page number) that it became a barrier to other people.
posted by MattD at 10:13 AM on October 26, 2000

My understanding was that the indexing system itself was developed by DoJ with public funds; I'll try to find my references on that.

In any event, if the referencing system is proprietary, I don't believe the courts ought to be able to require it; that's making a law (regulation) that unjustly enriches a single party without possibility of competition
posted by baylink at 12:07 PM on October 26, 2000

I agree with baylink on this one. First of all, if the government helped develop the system, it should be public domain. But most importantly, the government should never publish decisions in a format that isn't public domain, regardless of how good it is. For precisely the reason that it unfairly favors one company. West Publishing in this case.
posted by daveadams at 1:14 PM on October 26, 2000


Here's what I needed. A timeline of information on citation systems, apparently a thesis from a Villanova legal student.

JURIS is the project I was talking about; a quick read leaves me unable to determine completely whether the circumstances were as I thought they were, or if it's just handwaving from West; read for yourself, as will I.

Later. :-)
posted by baylink at 8:19 AM on October 27, 2000

Apologies; didn't read far enough: she's Assistant Director for MIS at the Law Library.
posted by baylink at 8:20 AM on October 27, 2000

Here's more, from the Star Tribune.
posted by baylink at 8:26 AM on October 27, 2000

And yet more, this one under an open-content license.
posted by baylink at 8:45 AM on October 27, 2000

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