Court transcripts and copyright awards

By Kristopher A. Nelson
in August 2009

300 words / 1 min.
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Should a court reporter own the copyright on his or her work product, and be able to force everyone to pay for it into the future. “No,” says an appeals court, overruling a lower court decision to the contrary.

Note: this post is from 2009. Evaluate with care and in light of later events.

a court reporter transcribes John's remarks
Image by cindiann via Flickr

Ah, the challenges of equating production with copyright (a very Lockean concept, incidentally):

The problem? The city and the court reporter who recorded the transcripts would have charged a much higher fee for a copy of the transcripts, and felt that the lawyer’s use of the law to gain access was somehow unfair. The court then ordered the lawyer to pay the court reporter over $4,000 to make up the “difference.” The lawyer, however, appealed, and the appeals court has thrown out the lower court ruling, saying that forcing the lawyer to pay the higher fee would mean that the court reporter effectively was given a copyright to the transcripts

via Techdirt.

It may not be “fair” to the court reporter that his or her work product should be available for less than they wish to sell it for — but the point of copyright and IP is about balancing public and private interests (and in promoting progress, in Constitutional terms), not about awarding ownership to producers. The court reporter was already paid for their effort and work, after all. The public interest then is best served by not awarding future monopoly ownership to them. Which is, I expect, pretty much what the appeals court decided.