This action raised the question of the extent of the copyright protection available to West Publishing with respect to its published opinions of the United States Supreme Court and the Circuit Courts of Appeals. The issue presented was whether the changes West makes to an opinion, either singly or in combination, represent a sufficient creative effort to warrant copyright protection. The opinions published by West are written, not by West, but by federal judges. The District Court found that since West has no copyright interest in those elements of the reported opinions which Hyperlaw was copying and intended to copy, Hyperlaw was entitled to a judgment that its copying of the opinions from the West reports did not violate West’s copyrights.
Plaintiffs in this case, all major publishing houses, allegeded that Kinko’s infringed their copyrights when they copied excerpts from books, whose rights were held by the plaintiffs, without permission and without payment of required fees and sold the copies for a profit. The court found that Kinko’s did not convincingly show that the excerpts it appropriated without seeking permission were a fair use of the works in question and concluded that they violated the Copyright Act.
Anthony Falzone writes about the court’s decision to stop publication of The Harry Potter Lexicon, ruling against Fair Use. All is not over. He writes:
Finally, remember that avada kedavra — the killing curse — is not always fatal. One wizard survived it. Three times. And it was he who cast the spell (and won’t be named here) that ultimately suffered for it. Maybe someday the Lexicon will be known as The Book That Lived.
Here is Stanford’s offical press release:
STANFORD, Calif., September 8, 2008– Stanford Law School’s Fair Use Project has released the following statement on behalf of RDR Books and its counsel regarding today’s decision on Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. et al v. RDR Books et al issued by U.S. District Judge Robert B. Patterson:
“We are encouraged by the fact that the Court recognized that as a general matter authors do not have the right to stop the publication of reference guides and companion books about literary works. As for the Lexicon, we are obviously disappointed with the result, and RDR Books is considering all of its options, including an appeal.”
Court decision and filings here at Justia: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. et al v. RDR Books et al