Official Code of Georgia Annotated
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Cover of vol. 1 (2007 ed.)
|Editor||Georgia Code Revision Commission|
The Official Code of Georgia Annotated or OCGA is the compendium of all laws in the U.S. state of Georgia. Like other U.S. state codes, its legal interpretation is subject to the United States Constitution, the United States Code, the Code of Federal Regulations, and the state's constitution. It is to the state what the United States Code (U.S.C.) is to the federal government.
An unusual feature of the OCGA is that, as stated in section 1-1-1, the privately prepared code annotations are officially merged into the official copy and are published under the authority of the state. This longstanding feature goes back to the Code of 1872. In other states, private prepared code annotations have no official sanction; thus, they are judicially noticeable only to the extent that they restate or quote from officially prepared documents like legislative committee reports. Section 1-1-1, which is the OGCA's short title, is as follows:
The statutory portion of the codification of Georgia laws prepared by the Georgia Code Revision Commission and the Michie Company pursuant to a contract entered into on June 19, 1978, is enacted and shall have the effect of statutes enacted by the General Assembly of Georgia. The statutory portion of such codification shall be merged with annotations, captions, catchlines, history lines, editorial notes, cross-references, indices, title and chapter analyses, and other materials pursuant to the contract and shall be published by authority of the state pursuant to such contract and when so published shall be known and may be cited as the 'Official Code of Georgia Annotated'.
The OCGA is the descendant of the first successfully enacted attempt in any English-speaking jurisdiction at a comprehensive codification of the substance of the common law, the Code of Georgia of 1861. The enactment of the Code predated the enactment of civil codes in 1866 in Dakota Territory and 1872 in California based on the work of New York-based law reformer David Dudley Field II.
Unlike the relatively race-neutral Field civil code, large portions of the original Code of Georgia were drafted by the pro-slavery Confederate lawyer Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb, so that the Code was shot through with Cobb's strong bias in favor of slavery and white supremacy. For example, as originally enacted, it contained a presumption that blacks were prima facie slaves until proven otherwise. After the American Civil War (in which Cobb died at the Battle of Fredericksburg), the Code had to be heavily revised in 1867 to eliminate portions that were obviously incompatible with the Thirteenth Amendment. The Code has been further revised and reenacted many times since.
In 2013 the State of Georgia, specifically the Georgia Code Revision Commission, threatened to sue Carl Malamud for copyright infringement over the posting of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated on the website Public.Resource.Org. As of July 21, 2015, the State of Georgia has acted on that threat and filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia. The basics of the lawsuit are simple: The State of Georgia claims copyright in the Code, and that Carl Malamud, and Public.Resource.Org have violated that copyright. Public.Resource.Org claims that since the state has chosen to make the Official Code of Georgia Annotated the official and authoritative code of the entire state, the Code should not be subject to copyright law, and should be freely available for all citizens to read and access. Even if this code includes additional materials outside the code (that may be normally copyrightable such as annotations, notes, etc.) because the state has chosen to designate this edition as the "Official" Code of Georgia Annotated, the state can't claim copyright.
Carl Malamud has responded to the suit:
It is a long-held tenet of American law that there is no copyright in the law. This is because the law belongs to the people and in our system of democracy we have the right to read, know, and speak the laws by which we choose to govern ourselves. Requiring a license before allowing citizens to read or speak the law would be a violation of deeply-held principles in our system that the laws apply equally to all.... This principle was strongly set out by the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Marshall when they stated "the Court is unanimously of opinion that no reporter has or can have any copyright in the written opinions delivered by this Court, and that the judges thereof cannot confer on any reporter any such right." Wheaton v. Peters, 33 U.S. (8 Pet.) 591 (1834). The Supreme Court specifically extended that principle to state law, such as the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, in Banks v. Manchester (128 U.S. 244, 1888) , where it stated that "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."
- Andrew P. Morriss, "Georgia Code (1861)," in Slavery in the United States: A Social, Political, And Historical Encyclopedia, vol. 2, ed. Junius P. Rodriguez (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2007), 314-315.
- "Georgia Claims Its Annotated Laws Are Covered by Copyright, Threatens Carl Malamud for Publishing the Law"
- "Complaint" (PDF), Code Revision Commission et al. v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc. (Court Filing), N.D.G.A., No. 1:15-cv-02594 (Docket 1), Jul 21, 2015, retrieved Jul 25, 2017 – via Recap (PACER current docket view)
- "State of Georgia Sues Carl Malamud for Copyright Infringement for Publishing the State's Own Laws"