Harvard Law Review Claims Copyright Over Legal Citations; Now Challenged By Public Domain Effort | Techdirt
"If you're not a copyright geek, you might not be aware of the copyright saga revolving around the Harvard "Bluebook." The Bluebook is basically the standard for legal citations in the US. It's technically owned by an organization that is effectively made up of four top law schools. For a variety of reasons, the idea that citations can be covered by copyright is troubling to a lot of folks, but the Harvard Law Review, in particular, has stood by the copyright in The Bluebook (for which it makes a pretty penny each year). Last year, there was a fight over this, best summed up succinctly by Carl Malamud in this short BoingBoing post: 'For five years, Professor Frank Bennett, a distinguished legal scholar at Nagoya University School of Law, has been trying to add Bluebook Support to Zotero, the open source citation tool used all over the world. Professor Bennett asked Harvard Law Review for permission. They said no. He asked again. They said no again. He secured Larry Lessig as his lawyer. They said no to Lessig. I pitched in and got a bunch of angry letters from the most expensive law firm in Boston. Even a flaming headline in Boing Boing wasn't enough to get the Harvard Law Review off their $2 million/year revenue stream to permit a little bit of innovation. Frank Bennett finally said the hell with it after asking nicely for 5 years, and has now released Bluebook Zotero. It's shameful that Bluebook, Inc. couldn't deal with this situation in a better way' ... The story has now taken an interesting twist, as Malamud, with the help of NYU law professor Chris Sprigman, has now sent a new letter to Harvard, pointing out that the 10th edition of The Bluebook is actually in the public domain, seeing as someone forgot to renew the copyright. Now, the 10th edition is obviously way off from the current 19th edition... but since much of the 19th edition survives from the 10th edition, that would suggest that much of The Bluebook is also public domain ... Meanwhile, as an aside, a few months ago, lawyer Cathy Gellis also pointed out that if legal citation formats are copyrightable, then it would appear that the 19th edition of The Bluebook infringes on her copyright, since she suggested a citation style for websites years earlier, which the latest edition of The Bluebook appears to have adopted ..."