E-Commerce Times Talkback
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In the aftermath of the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, state and federal governments moved to become more open, and the Internet has made the achievement of transparency even easier.
Information is now available to the general public on government websites or from federal agencies in response to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act. Many states have open records laws requiring a similar provision of information on the state level. Lawyers file documents electronically in most federal courts and in many state courts, and the courts retain copies of those proceedings.
Great analysis as usual, Peter. Two points that might also be considered:
1. Could West & Lexis ("WESTLEX") try to rely on the conditions of use stated in their respective customers' licenses as consent by the lawyers who are their customers for WESTLEX to use allegedly copyrighted materials that the customers file in courts? In other words, could the companies assert that their customers as users agreed to the conditions under which the companies could used documents that the customers filed? If not under present licenses, might the companies try tweaking their license language to achieve that result? Among their customers likely would be the vast majority of lawyers and law firms that file documents in state & federal courts as well as in administrative agencies.
2. The ultimate result of this and similar litigation likely will also have important consequenses for state and local governments: Under state laws, these governments are usually required to provide most of their records to members of the public on request. The opinions of state attorneys general (and a few state statues) differ widely on whether those who receive such disclosures can then use the public records for commercial gain. Among the hottest subjects of this open question is GIS information prepared for local governments.