In its ruling, issued Friday, the 11th Circuit said deciding the case meant “confronting profound and difficult issues about the nature of law in our society and the rights of citizens to have unfettered access to the legal edicts that govern their lives.”
In the end, the court found that “the people, as the reservoir of all sovereignty, are the source of our law.” For copyright purposes, this means they are the “constructive authors” of the annotated code. “And because they are the authors, the people are the owners of these works, meaning that the works are intrinsically public domain material and, therefore, uncopyrightable.”
Judge Stanley Marcus, who wrote the opinion, noted there is a substantial public policy interest in the issue — “providing free access to such works promotes an informed citizenry.”
Applauding the ruling in a tweet, Malamud took inspiration from folk singer Woody Guthrie: “This law is your law. This law is my law. From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Savannah River. From Morehouse College to the Vidalia fields. This law was made for you and me.”
Atlanta lawyer Tony Askew, who represents the state, divulged little when asked for comment.
“This is an interesting case,” he wrote in an email. “At this time we cannot discuss future options.”