What is the law?
Binding, on-point law (about)
Advisory sources (about)
Several Mississippi attorney general opinions address the copyrightability of state documents or data. A 1991 opinion states that, "the State Highway Department may acquire and own copyrights on material which qualifies for copyright protection pursuant to federal law," but also contains the somewhat confusing statement that "we do not address the issue of whether maps and data compiled by the Highway Department which are in the public domain may be copyrighted under federal law." Miss. Op. Att'y Gen. (May 23, 1991). A 1994 opinion covers public records disclosure of information copyrighted by a third party, and indicates that a valid federal copyright prohibits copying under the public records law. Miss. Op Att'y Gen. No. 93-0975 (1994); see also Miss. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 95-0782 (1995). See the "Specifics and examples" section, below, for additional instances where the attorney general has provided guidance for specific government records. While none of these opinions address the government records broadly, they generally seem to assume that government documents may be copyrighted.
Public records law (about)
Mississippi has had a limited statutory right of access since 1930, see Miss. Code. Ann. § 9-5-169, however it was not broadly applicable until the passage of the current Public Records Law, Miss. Code Ann. § 25-61-1 et seq., in 1983.
Does the public records law restrict the use of disclosed records?
Some health and vital statistics records are restricted to requestors who can demonstrate "a legitimate and tangible interest" in them. Miss. Code. Ann. § 41-57-2. More generally the use, and particularly the commercial use, of a record may be taken into account when determining the fees charged for public records requests. Miss. Code. Ann. § 25-61-7(2) ("[A] public body may consider the type of information requested, the purpose or purposes for which the information has been requested and the commercial value of the information."). 
The Mississippi Ethics Commission  has said that, "the commission rejects the assertion that all copyrighted materials in the possession of a public body are exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act." Miss. Ethics Commission Opinion No. R-12-003. As shown in the several Attorney General Opinions on the issue, however, this does not preclude restrictions on the subsequent use of disclosed copyrighted material.
Specifics and examples (about)
|Status||Applies to...||Based on?|
|Copyrightable by statute||"[T]he Mississippi Code of 1972 and the notes, annotations, and indexes thereof" ||Miss. Code. Ann. § 1-1-9(1)|
|Copyrightable by statute||"[T]he Mississippi Administrative Code, including, but not limited to, cross references, tables of cases, notes of decisions, tables of contents, indices, source notes, authority notes, numerical lists and codification guides, other than the actual text of rules or regulations"||Miss. Code. Ann. § 25-43-2.101(6)(a)|
|Public domain by administrative rule||"[A]ll pleadings and other materials filed with" the United States District Courts for the Northern and Southern Districts of Mississippi||Local Uniform Civil Rules of the United States District Courts for the Northern District of Mississippi and the Southern District of Mississippi, Rule 79(a)|
|Copyrightable by Attorney General Opinion||Software programs developed by the state ("Software programs developed by the State or its agencies are essentially the intellectual property of the State")||Miss. Op. Att'y Gen. (Apr. 3, 1992)|
|Copyrightable by Attorney General Opinion||"[M]aps and electronic data bases produced by the Mississippi State Highway Department"||Miss. Op. Att'y Gen. (May 23, 1991)|
|Possibly copyrightable by Attorney General Opinion||Aerial photographs and maps of Hancock County||Miss. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 94-0643, (1994) (if maps were copyrighted by the county, then copyright would control fees charged for reproduction under public records law)|
|Cannot be restricted by third-party copyright||Land and court records scanned into a third-party copyrighted database by Panola County||Miss. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 2008-00592 (2008) ("the public owns" data collected by county employees within a third-party copyrighted database system. The Opinion concludes that the data is subject to public records disclosure, and is not exempted because it is housed in a third-party copyrighted database system.)|
Additional things to consider (about)
The Mississippi code often describes records as either "property of the state" or "public property": Miss. Code. Ann. § 7-3-5 ("acts and resolutions of the legislature, maps, charts and other property of the state"); Miss. Code. Ann. § 45-3-47 ("All applications, birth certificates, transcripts and other records submitted by an applicant shall become the property of the state"); Miss. Code. Ann. § 25-59-19 ("All records created or received in the performance of public duty and paid for by public funds are deemed to be public property"); Miss. Code. Ann. § 7-11-6 ("the seal, all records, reports and other property of the state land office"). The code additionally provides for penalties for unauthorized destruction or removal of records. Miss. Code. Ann. § 25-59-23.
Where else to go
- Mississippi Ethics Commission, Public Records Act, available at http://www.ethics.state.ms.us/ethics/ethics.nsf/webpage/A_records?OpenDocument.
- Mississippi Library Commission, available at http://www.mlc.lib.ms.us/.
- Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Open Government Guide: Access to Public Records and Meetings in Mississippi, available at http://www.rcfp.org/rcfp/orders/docs/ogg/MS.pdf.
- Roberts v. Mississippi Republican Party State Exec. Comm., 465 So. 2d 1050 (Miss. 1985), available at http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=4307650606369177052.
Miss. Code Ann. § 25-61-1 et seq.
Miss. Code. Ann. § 41-57-2.
Miss. Code. Ann. § 25-61-7.
Miss. Code. Ann. § 1-1-9.
Miss. Code. Ann. § 25-43-2.101.
Miss. Code. Ann. § 7-3-5.
Miss. Code. Ann. § 45-3-47.
Miss. Code. Ann. § 9-5-169.
Miss. Code. Ann. § 25-59-19.
Miss. Code. Ann. § 7-11-6.
Miss. Code. Ann. § 25-59-23.
- Local Uniform Civil Rules of the United States District Courts for the Northern District of Mississippi and the Southern District of Mississippi, Rule 79(a), available at http://www.mssd.uscourts.gov/sites/mssd/files/2013MASTERCOPYCivil.pdf.
Attorney General Opinions
Miss. Op. Att'y Gen. (May 23, 1991), available at https://govt.westlaw.com/msag/Document/I0f9bffc1089611db91d9f7db97e2132f.
Miss. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 93-0975 (1994), available at https://govt.westlaw.com/msag/Document/Ib04076b1086711db91d9f7db97e2132f.
Miss. Op. Att'y Gen. (Apr. 3, 1992), available at https://govt.westlaw.com/msag/Document/Ie5c0534008ae11db91d9f7db97e2132f.
Miss. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 94-0643 (1994), available at https://govt.westlaw.com/msag/Document/Ia9d4ac701d2e11db8ebfade62ba3f9ed.
Miss. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 2008-00592 (2008), available at https://govt.westlaw.com/msag/Document/I00308c47ad8511dd93e8a76b30106ace.
Miss. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 95-0782 (1995), available at https://govt.westlaw.com/msag/Document/I47a466f1086411db91d9f7db97e2132f.
- John Bender, Solid-Gold Photocopies: A Review of Fees for Copies of Public Records Established Under State Open Records Laws, 29 Urb. Law. 81, 121 (1997).
-  This statutory provision supersedes the previous state law, governed by Roberts v. Miss. Rep. Party State Exec. Comm., 465 So. 2d 1050 (Miss. 1985), which refused to allow the commercial value of data to be recouped through fees in in a public records request. Id. at 1054. The previous status of the law, and similar issues more generally are discussed in John Bender, Solid-Gold Photocopies: A Review of Fees for Copies of Public Records Established Under State Open Records Laws, 29 Urb. Law. 81, 121 (1997).
-  Miss. Code Ann. § 25-61-13 specifies that "[t]he Mississippi Ethics Commission shall have the authority to enforce the provisions of this chapter [the Public Records Law] upon a complaint filed by any person denied the right granted under Section 25-61-5 to inspect or copy public records."
-  Several circuit decisions have affirmed that third-party materials do not lose copyright protection when they are incorporated into state law. See, e.g., Practice Mgmt. Info. Corp. v. Am. Med. Ass'n, 121 F.3d 516 (9th Cir. 1997) amended, 133 F.3d 1140 (9th Cir. 1998); CCC Info. Servs., Inc. v. Maclean Hunter Mkt. Reports, Inc., 44 F.3d 61 (2d Cir. 1994); Bldg. Officials & Code Adm. v. Code Tech., Inc., 628 F.2d 730 (1st Cir. 1980). But see Veeck v. S. Bldg. Code Cong. Int'l, Inc., 293 F.3d 791 (5th Cir. 2002) (holding that third-party written building codes lose copyright protection when they are adopted into law).