So why sue a person who is engaged in such a laudable activity that is so beneficial to the public?
The State of Georgia asserts that it contracted the legal research and legal publications giant LexisNexis to make annotations for State of Georgia's official statutes.
The State of Georgia, in a twisted logic (in my opinion), claimed to the federal court that Mr. Malamud, in making the annotations that belong to the State of Georgia through its contract with LexisNexis (and thus belong to the people of the State of Georgia) infringed upon State of Georgia's "copyright" in those annotations by - guess what - making those annotations to the official states available to - gasp! - the people of the State of Georgia.
Of course, by publishing such annotations on the Internet, Mr. Malamud's organization has made those annotations available to a wider readership than just to the people of the State of Georgia, the true owners of the annotations, but if certain documents are in the public domain of a certain state, by law they are in the public domain, period - even if an alien spy organization wants to read the annotated official code of the State of Georgia for their own evil purposes.
The officials of the State of Georgia who filed the lawsuit (and their attorneys) obviously have the "chicken and egg" problem. They somehow assert that while the State of Georgia contracted annotations, and thus owns a "copyright" to those annotations to its own official statutes, then the People of the State of Georgia cannot have free access to those annotations - acquired by their representatives at the expenses of their taxes.
And, by the same twisted logic, a person or organization who provides access to annotations to official law paid for by the state officials with taxpayers' money, is infringing upon the copyright of the State in those annotations.
There is also a clear standing problem - if the State of Georgia gave exclusive rights to sell the "annotated code" to LexisNexis (and the question is - why, on what legal grounds was that exclusive rights given), it is LexisNexis that need to be suing to enforce its exclusive contractual rights.
I am not the only attorney who raises the standing issue. I encourage my readers to read the excellent blog by attorney Max Kennerly with a thorough analysis of concerning issues in the lawsuit.
Attorney Kennerly does ask the question as to why it is the State of Georgia who is suing, even though it is the LexisNexis' contractual rights which are allegedly violated.
The answer may be - LexisNexis, because it created the annotation by contract with a public entity, does not have copyright in that material and cannot sue for copyright infringement.
But, on the other hand, the public entity has no basis for a lawsuit (in my legal opinion) for copyright infringement based on the fact that somebody gave access to the People of the State of Georgia to annotations to official law that was procured by People of the State of Georgia (through its government, its legal representatives), with public money, because such annotations belong to the People of the State of Georgia, and giving access to the owner to his own property is not copyright infringement.
I hope that the federal court will toss this case.
It deserves its place in the waste basket.
And I hope that people of the State of Georgia demand to fire everybody who was involved in filing and prosecution of that case and wasting taxpayer's money.
There are many unmet needs in the State of Georgia where the money spent on this nonsensical litigation could be used and actually help people such as, just as one point out of many, childhood poverty of 27%.
Mr. Malamud's organization and its efforts to HELP the poor people who obviously cannot afford an attorney, but whose tax dollars are used against them by the government, to at least know the law that is used against them is a bigger problem for the government of the State of Georgia than all the above.
Which makes even more laudable Mr. Malamud's efforts to make laws accessible to the poor people who own those laws, despite lawsuits against him by the establishment to prosecute him for those honorable efforts.
I must add that nobody need free online access to the annotated official statutes of the State of Georgia more than the poor people in the State of Georgia, those who cannot afford to buy those same annotations from LexisNexis.
Nobody outside of the State of Georgia, save for scholars, really needs to know the statutes of the State of Georgia.
Attorneys practicing in the State of Georgia, know the statutes because they their legal training and because they use those statutes on a daily basis and paying for those annotations is their business expense usually passed to the clients.
So, the State of Georgia, by suing Carl Malamud's organization for providing public access to annotations to the official statutes of the State of Georgia, insist on keeping the poor people of the State of Georgia, in the dark about their own laws.
And such efforts are not laudable, honorable or even legitimate for a democratic state government.