ARTICLE: MONOPOLIZING THE LAW: THE SCOPE OF COPYRIGHT PROTECTION FOR LAW REPORTS AND STATUTORY COMPILATIONS. Skip over navigation
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Copyright The Regents of the University of California, 1989.

UCLA Law Review

ARTICLE: MONOPOLIZING THE LAW: THE SCOPE OF COPYRIGHT PROTECTION FOR LAW REPORTS AND STATUTORY COMPILATIONS.

APRIL, 1989

36 UCLA L. Rev. 719

Author

L. Ray Patterson & Craig Joyce *

Excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

The recent litigation 1 between West Publishing Company ("West") 2 and Mead Data Central, Inc. ("MDC") 3 raises anew the issue of copyright protection for the law, this time in the context of computer technology. When MDC announced its intention to employ in LEXIS, its computer-assisted legal research service, star pagination 4 based in part on West's National Reporter System, 5 West filed suit, alleging copyright infringement and unfair competition.

West's concern for its commercial well-being was hardly surprising, for MDC's plan would have enabled LEXIS subscribers to use the internal pagination of cases as reported in National Reporter System volumes without purchasing or even consulting West's hardbound reports. That a federal district court actually would enjoin MDC from proceeding with its plans, even preliminarily, and be affirmed by a circuit court of appeals, was surprising. But after three frustrating years of litigation, including a bench trial that offered little promise of reversing the result in the case short of eventual success in the Supreme Court, MDC threw in the towel and agreed to pay West "tens of millions of dollars" to obtain a settlement. 6

Until the advent of the computer, the law of copyright as related to law books was reasonably well settled. Indeed, West's success in the present litigation disturbs a century-and-a-half of precedent dating from the Supreme Court's first copyright decision, Wheaton v. Peters, 7 in 1834. Wheaton held that opinions of the Court are not copyrightable, and that holding remains the ...
 
 
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