annotations

First-class vs economy-class access to the law: what the US Supreme Court says

A new decision from the US Supreme Court has a strong message for other courts, lawyers and everyone who works with court documents and with legislation, annotated or otherwise. The judgment restates the principle that no-one may claim copyright on decisions of the courts because the law belongs to 'the people' who have a right to know its content. But the judgment goes further and holds that government-commissioned annotations, like headnotes made on legislation, are also not subject to copyright.

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It is a principle that some jurisdictions still can’t quite accept: that decisions written by judges don’t belong to the judges who authored them, or to the Chief Justice, or to the government of the country where the judge lives. No, these decisions belong to ‘the people’, and ‘the people’ must have access to these judgments. Otherwise, how will people know what the courts have said, and thus what the law is that they must obey?

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