Copyright denied

The Supreme Court rejected a publishing company's appeal of a ruling that it was not entitled to copyright protection for its database of judicial opinions.

The high court's action was a victory for Matthew Bender & Co. and HyperLaw Inc., which both publish opinions on CD-ROM. West Publishing Co. alleged that the two companies infringed its copyright when they scanned Supreme Court and federal appeals court rulings directly from West, which summarizes opinions and adds its own page citations.

A federal appeals court ruled that West does not enjoy protection in this case. It held that publishers who compile court opinions on CD-ROMs don't violate copyrights when they use "star pagination," page numbers used by West. They are a standard citation that courts widely require.

West said the appeals court ruling provides would-be infringers of copyrighted compilations with complete insulation from liability if they make text available digitally (see related article page 19).

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