Re: WEST-THOMSON- DOJ Lette

From: Harold Federow <hfederow[_at_]u.washington.edu>
Date: Wed, 11 Sep 1996 12:21:29 -0800

On 9 Sep 1996, Martha_Luehrmann[_at_]macmail2.lbl.gov (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.
>
> Martha Luehrmann
> MRLuehrmann[_at_]LBL.gov

Good point, I had forgotten about Watergate cases. As I remember the arguments and opinions, though, the issue was who owned them and copyright was not raised explicitly.

However, this does remind us that this problem must be considered through more than just a copyright viewpoint. These documents (at least for rulemaking) are submitted under a regime established by the Administrative Procedure Act and state law equivalents that explicitly state the documents must be made part of the public record. Other statutes, again at both federal and state levels, require that these public records may be inspected and copied (some states, Washington for example, limit copying to noncommercial purposes).

The statutes and regulations that establish the procedures pursuant to which DOJ published everything also establish the public nature of what is submitted.

As other commentors have mentioned, there is much more going on here than just copyright

Harold Federow
<hfederow[_at_]u.washington.edu> Received on Wed Sep 11 1996 - 19:15:47 GMT

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