Re: WEST-THOMSON- DOJ Lette

From: Steve Jamar <sjamar[_at_]law.howard.edu>
Date: Thu, 12 Sep 1996 08:47:14 -0400

Harold Federow <hfederow[_at_]u.washington.edu> wrote:
>
> 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

Watergate predates the Berne amendments to the Copyright Statute and so there would have had to have been notice and claim and registration etc. for there to be copyright claims.

If it is a federal government document, there is no copyright.

The original question was, I thought, about a letter from a non-governmental person to the government. That, it would seem to me, is not covered by the government waiver of copyright.

Steven D. Jamar
Professor of Law & Dir. Legal Research & Writing Program Howard University School of Law
2900 Van Ness Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
voice: 202-806-8017 fax: 202-806-8428 email: sjamar[_at_]law.howard.edu Received on Thu Sep 12 1996 - 12:48:13 GMT

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