Aggregators Free to Use California Public Records

As you may know, in the U.S. federal government documents are not protected by copyright. (Canadian federal government documents are protected by copyright in Canada.) Take this in context when reading the summary of the February 5th, 2009 decision by the California Court of Appeals for the Sixth Appellate District released its decision in California first Amendment Coalition v. County of Santa Clara.

In this case, the County of Santa Clara tried to enforce copyright in public records and to impose licensing restrictions (resulting in license fees) on commercial vendors. California first Amendment Coalition (CFAC) sued the county to release the public records. The Court rejected the argument that municipalities could claim copyright in public records or impose license fees. The Court dismissed adverse decisions from other jurisdictions. Now, a copyright claim in a California public record must have an express and specific grant of authority by the legislature. This means that aggregators may freely include California public records in its databases and license them to others (unless there is an appeal and reversal by the California Supreme Court or an enactment of legislation.)

This decision is at: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/H031658.PDF.

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