Abstract

FREEING THE LAW: CASE REPORTER COPYRIGHT AND THE UNIVERSAL CITATION SYSTEM

JAMES H. WYMAN

Copyright 1996 James H. Wyman

This Comment discusses the issues underlying the debate over electronic case law citation. Part II provides an historical background that begins with the seminal case law copyright decisions of the nineteenth century and concludes with the rise of the West Publishing Company and LEXIS. Part III explores West Publishing's pagination copyright claim, from its recognition by the Eighth Circuit in West Publishing Co. v. Mead Data Central, Inc., to its continuing tenability in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1991 decision in Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co., Inc. and ongoing litigation. Part III also examines the obstacles confronting the possibility of a complete archive of case law on the Internet and the more ready availability of case law on inexpensive CD-ROMs. Part IV explores the alternative, medium-neutral citation systems that have recently been offered and discusses the practical application of such a system, using Florida as an example. Finally, Part V concludes that the judiciary should recognize the changing nature of legal research by moving to adopt a universal citation system that does not favor any particular vendor or medium.

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