Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc. is a case pending before the Supreme Court of the United States[1] and had its oral arguments last week.[2] What’s interesting from a law librarian’s perspective about this case is that what is at issue are the Georgia statutory annotations. Like you learned in your 1L legal research classes, the statutory annotations are a valuable research tool. They have summaries of cases and can even direct you to secondary sources that could be useful to consult in your research. If there is an applicable statute to your research question, you should also consult the annotated codes that you have access to. The unannotated code gives you the statutory text, but nothing more. The annotated code gives you all these extra research tools to help you be more efficient in your research. Westlaw and Lexis generally make their own statutory annotations for each set of statutes, and their annotations vary. That’s why I always recommend to legal researchers that if they have access to both statutory annotations, then they should consult both.

What makes Georgia unique is that the Lexis’s annotations are actually a part of the official code of Georgia. However, because Lexis takes the time and money to create those annotations, it thinks the annotations should be copyrighted and not have them available to the public for free. Since the annotations are a part of the official code of Georgia, technically Georgia asks Lexis to create the annotations, so Georgia thinks it has the copyright over the annotations. The legal fight isn’t between Lexis and Georgia, though, it’s between Georgia and a non-profit (Public.Resource.Org, Inc.) that has a website where it puts the law so it can be easily and freely accessible to the public. Public.Resource.Org, Inc. scanned the entire official code of Georgia, which included the annotations since they are in the official code, and that is what is the problem. Who thought as a 1L that the statutory annotations would cause such a controversy? I sure didn’t.

Georgia argues the statutory text can be scanned, but the annotations cannot be. Public.Resource.Org, Inc. argues that the annotations have been given the “official” stamp by Georgia so they should be available to the public for free. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia agreed with Georgia.[3] The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit agreed with Public.Resource.Org, Inc.[4] TBD on what the U.S. Supreme Court thinks. What do you think?

[1] No. 18-1150, U.S. Supreme Court, (last visited Dec. 13, 2019).

[2] See Oral Argument, Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc., 588 U.S. __ (2020) (No. 18-1150), (A text transcript of the oral argument can be found at

[3] Code Revision Commission v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc., 244 F. Supp. 3d 1350, 1356 (N.D. Ga. 2017).

[4] Code Revision Commission v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc., 906 F.3d 1229, 1223 (11th Cir. 2018).