Republishing attorney-drafted documents is not infringement

White v. West Publishing Corp., 1:12-cv-01340-JSR (S.D.N.Y. July 3, 2014)  

In this case Plaintiffs sued West and Lexis for copyright infringement based on the inclusion of two of his copyrighted briefs in Defendants’ databases.

The court denied Plaintiff’s motion. Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides a defense to copyright infringement that allows for “fair use” of a copyrighted work without permission based on consideration of four non-exclusive statutory factors, which in this case were evaluated as follows:

– Purpose/character of the use: “First, while White created the briefs solely for the purpose of providing legal services to his clients and securing specific legal outcomes in the Beer litigation, the defendants used the brief toward the end of creating an interactive legal research tool… Second, West and Lexis’s processes of reviewing, selecting, converting, coding, linking, and identifying the documents “add[] something new, with a further purpose or different character” than the original briefs.” Thus, the first factor weighs in favor of a finding of fair use.

–  Nature of work: “while White’s briefs were in some sense unpublished, this factor is made less significant by the fact that White intentionally made the briefs publicly available by filing them with the court; thus the circumstances of this case do not implicate the rationales for protecting unpublished works. On net, the second factor also weighs in favor of a finding of fair use.”

– Amount/substantiality of portion taken: “Although defendants here copied the entirety of White’s briefs, such copying was necessary to make the briefs comprehensively text searchable. Thus the Court finds that defendants only copied what was reasonably necessary for their transformative use, and that the third factor is therefore neutral.’

– Market effect: “West’s and Lexis’s usage of the briefs is in no way economically a substitute for the use of the briefs in their original market: the provision of legal advice for an attorney’s clients. White himself admits that he lost no clients as a result of West’s and Lexis’s usage”. As such, also this factor weighted in favor of Defendants’ fair use.

The full text can be found at: http://www.nysd.uscourts…

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