What is the law?
Binding, on-point law (about)
Advisory sources (about)
Public records law (about)
Georgia first enacted a public records statute in 1831. See Georgia First Amendment Foundation, A Timeline of Georgia's Public Records Laws. The current Open Records Act may be found at Ga. Code Ann. § 50-18-70.
Does the public records law restrict the use of disclosed records?
The Georgia Open Records Act restricts access to motor vehicle accident reports only to those with a demonstrated "need" for the records. Ga. Code Ann. § 50-18-72(a)(5). Ga. Code Ann. § 15-6-96 authorizes the clerk of the superior court to profit from the sale or distribution of records of their office. A Georgia court, in Powell v. VonCanon, 1996, 219 Ga.App. 840, 467 S.E.2d 193, differentiated between the Open Records and § 15-6-96 and ruled that greater fees for intended commercial use of records could be charged under §15-6-96, but could not under the Open Records Act.
Specifics and examples (about)
|Status||Applies to...||Based on?|
|Copyrightable by statute||"all materials in the [Georgia] Code and any supplements thereto"|| Ga. Code Ann. § 28-9-3 |
While § 28-9-3 refers only to the codification of Georgia laws, case law makes it clear that the texts of the statutes themselves are not copyrightable. In State of Ga., on Behalf of & for Benefit of Gen. Assembly of Ga., By & Through Code Revision Comm'n v. Harrison Co., 548 F. Supp. 110 (N.D. Ga. 1982) vacated sub nom. State of Ga. on Behalf of Gen. Assembly of Georgia By & Through Code Revision Comm'n v. Harrison Co., 559 F. Supp. 37 (N.D. Ga. 1983), a Georgia court held that the basic texts of statutes are in the public domain, and that merely descriptive chapter titles were insufficiently original to merit copyright protection. Annotations and other content added by a third party may still be copyrighted. Section 28-9-3 must therefore be interpreted to only apply to portions of the code not in the public domain.
|Copyrightable by statute||"the official reports of the decisions of the Supreme Court or of the Court of Appeals, together with the usual title pages, indexes, etc., as well as the advance reports of the decisions of each court" ||Ga. Code Ann., § 50-18-34. Definition of "reports" from Ga. Code Ann., § 50-18-20|
|Copyrightable by statute||State license plate designs||Ga. Code Ann. §§ 40-2-60.1, 40-2-85.3, 40-2-86.1|
|Copyrightable by statute||Intellectual property owned by the Georgia Lottery Corporation||Ga. Code Ann. § 50-27-9|
|Copyrightable by statute||Intellectual property owned by the Department of Economic Development, as authorized by the Board of Economic Development||Ga. Code Ann. § 50-7-8|
Additional things to consider (about)
Georgia has an unusually high number of statutory authorizations for government entity copyright ownership (see examples above). At least four of these statutes, explicitly granting authority to hold copyrights, were enacted after the passage of the 1976 federal copyright act.
The current version of the Georgia Open Records Act does not restrict records requests to Georgia citizens. A Georgia court expanded the right of access beyond state residents in Atchison v. Hosp. Auth. of City of St. Marys, 245 Ga. 494, 265 S.E.2d 801 (1980), and the Open Records Law was later changed to omit the citizens-only language. See Ga. Op. Att'y Gen. 76 (1993).
The Georgia code explicitly refers to records as "public property" in Ga. Code Ann. § 50-18-102 ("All records created or received in the performance of duty and paid for by public funds are deemed to be public property"), however it also specifies that title to records transferred under the state records management program either remains with the originating agency or is transferred to the State Archives. Ga. Code Ann. § 50-18-98. The Georgia code also prohibits the transfer of public records to the custody of private individuals without special authorization. Ga. Code Ann. § 50-18-102.
Where else to go
Georgia Attorney General, Open Government website, available at http://law.ga.gov/open-government.
Georgia State Archives, available at http://www.georgiaarchives.org/.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Open Government Guide: Access to Public Records and Meetings in Georgia, available at http://www.rcfp.org/rcfp/orders/docs/ogg/GA.pdf.
Powell v. VonCanon, 1996, 219 Ga.App. 840, 467 S.E.2d 193, available at https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=7502810486150418482.
Atchison v. Hosp. Auth. of City of St. Marys, 245 Ga. 494, 265 S.E.2d 801 (1980), available at https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=16329321878136818078.
Ga. Code Ann. § 50-18-70, available at http://law.ga.gov/sites/law.ga.gov/files/imported/vgn/images/portal/cit_1210/62/51/186385699r1.pdf.
Ga. Code Ann. § 50-18-72, available at http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2014/title-50/chapter-18/article-4/section-50-18-72/.
Ga. Code Ann. § 15-6-96, available at http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2014/title-15/chapter-6/article-2/section-15-6-96/.
Ga. Code Ann. § 28-9-3, available at http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2014/title-28/chapter-9/section-28-9-3/.
Ga. Code Ann., § 50-18-34, available at http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2014/title-50/chapter-18/article-2/section-50-18-34/.
Ga. Code Ann. § 40-2-60.1, available at http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2014/title-40/chapter-2/article-3/section-40-2-60.1/.
Ga. Code Ann. § 40-2-85.3, available at http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2014/title-40/chapter-2/article-3/section-40-2-85.3/.
Ga. Code Ann. § 40-2-86.1, available at http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2014/title-40/chapter-2/article-3/section-40-2-86.1/.
Ga. Code Ann. § 50-27-9, available at http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2014/title-50/chapter-27/article-1/section-50-27-9/.
Ga. Code Ann. § 50-7-8, available at http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2014/title-50/chapter-7/article-1/section-50-7-8/.
Ga. Code Ann. § 50-18-98, available at http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2014/title-50/chapter-18/article-5/section-50-18-98/.
Ga. Code Ann. § 50-18-102, available at http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2014/title-50/chapter-18/article-5/section-50-18-102/.
Attorney General Opinions
- 1993 Ga. Op. Att'y Gen. 76 (1993).
- Georgia First Amendment Foundation, A Timeline of Georgia's Public Records Laws, available at http://www.gfaf.org/resources/timeline.htm.
-  Judicial opinions cannot be copyrighted. The Supreme Court in Banks v. Manchester, 128 U.S. 244, 9 S. Ct. 36, 32 L. Ed. 425 (1888) invalidated an asserted copyright by a private publisher, an Ohio citizen, for copyright in the state court reports, holding that any content written by a judge cannot be copyrighted because "[t]he whole work done by the judges constitutes the authentic exposition and interpretation of the law, which, binding every citizen, is free for publication to all, whether it is a declaration of unwritten law, or an interpretation of a constitution or a statute." See also Nash v. Lathrop, 142 Mass. 29, 35, 6 N.E. 559, 560 (1886) and Wheaton v. Peters, 33 U.S. 591, 668, 8 L. Ed. 1055 (1834). Only materials ancillary to the court opinion such as the "title-page, table of cases, head notes, statements of facts, arguments of counsel, and index" may be copyrighted. Callaghan v. Myers, 128 U.S. 617, 649, 9 S. Ct. 177, 185, 32 L. Ed. 547 (1888). Ga. Code Ann., § 50-18-34 must, therefore, only apply to the materials added to the reports by the reporter or publisher, and not to the judicial decisions themselves.