From: Terry Carroll <carroll[_at_]>
Date: Tue, 10 Sep 1996 10:34:11 -0700 (PDT)

On 9 Sep 1996, Martha Luehrmann wrote:
> I thought that the legal battles surrounding the Watergate tapes and
> transcripts established once and for all that correspondence and other
> documents from government officials and employees in their official
> capacities was government property, not the individual employee's
> property.

That's probably the case with state government officials/employees. With the federal government, there's no copyright interest, due to section 105. There will probably be a property interest in the physical documents themselves, of course.

But the question that was asked was whether correspondence to (as opposed to from) a government official becomes public domain.

My take is that, no, it doesn't become public domain, at least not technically. However, if the letter touches on matters of public concern (an attribute that one would expect of most letters to the government), then it's hard for me to conceive of many uses of the work that would not be considered a fair use. So as a practical matter, it may as well be public domain.

Terrence J. Carroll 
Attorney at Law                                      ph: 415/843-5090
Cooley Godward Castro Huddleson & Tatum             fax: 415/857-0663
Five Palo Alto Square            email (office): carrolltj[_at_]
Palo Alto, CA 94306-2155         email (personal):    carroll[_at_]
Received on Tue Sep 10 1996 - 17:39:55 GMT

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