One of the key benefits state bar associations provide their members is complimentary access to online research services. Fastcase and Casemaker are the leading service providers in the field, each with a nearly equal share of the state bar association membership market. You can see the breakdown as of 2014 at this blog post from the Duke Law Library. Texas is unique (of course!) offering its members complimentary access to both Casemaker and Fastcase. Both the Casemaker and Fastcase products are solid legal research platforms, providing excellent coverage of primary law (and some secondary sources) with good search functionality.
Over the last few years, some state bar associations have chosen to move to one service after years with another. The Pennsylvania bar now offers Casemaker instead of InSite, and the Georgia bar partnered with Fastcase in 2011, choosing to no longer offer Casemaker as a member benefit.
Last week, Fastcase sued Lawriter (Casemaker’s parent company), seeking a declaratory judgment that Lawriter cannot prohibit Fastcase from publishing the Georgia Regulations in its subscription legal research service. Lawriter, the designated publisher of Georgia Regulations, claims sole rights to its distribution. Lawriter demanded via letter that Fastcase remove the Georgia regulations from its service. Despite not knowing the contractual agreement between the State of Georgia and Lawriter, it seems difficult to imagine that Lawriter’s publication of public domain materials online involved a substantial original contribution that would allow for its protection under copyright law.
The issues in this case bring to mind the litigation between West Publishing and Mead Data Systems in the 1980s. For more background, and an excellent discussion of the availability of copyright in legal publishing, see the Law Center’s own Professor Craig Joyce’s article (with L. Ray Patterson), Monopolizing the Law: The Scope of Copyright Protection for Law Reports and Statutory Compilations, 36 UCLA L. Rev. 719 (1989). Professor Joyce’s article was also cited in Fastcase’s Complaint for Declaratory Judgment, which may be read here.
(h/t to Robert Ambrogi’s Law Sites blog for bringing this suit to our attention)