Lawyers sue Westlaw and LexisNexis for copyright infringement

Plaintiffs claim databases violate attorneys’ copyrights by reproducing their legal documents

Two lawyers are accusing the popular legal databases LexisNexis and Westlaw of doing more harm than help.

Yesterday, Oklahoma City, Okla., lawyer Edward White and New York City lawyer Kenneth Elan filed a class action lawsuit against West Publishing and Reed Elsevier, the parent company of LexisNexis, saying the two companies violate lawyers’ copyrights by reproducing their legal documents—including publicly filed briefs, filed briefs and motions—within their respective Westlaw and LexisNexis databases.

The suit, which White and Elan filed in Manhattan federal court, claims the companies are responsible for “unabashed wholesale copying of thousands of copyright-protected works created by, and owned by, the attorneys and the law firms who authored them.” White and Elan say West Publishing and Reed Elsevier haven’t received permission from authoring lawyers to publish their legal documents. They also say the companies have raked in “huge profits” by selling access to the databases.

White and Elan seek to represent two classes of lawyers: those who have obtained copyright registration of their works, as White has, and those such as Elan, who haven’t.

Read the ABA Journal and the Wall Street Journal for more about the lawsuit, and view the lawsuit here.

Ashley Post

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