In February, two lawyers sued the popular legal databases LexisNexis and Westlaw, saying they violate lawyers’ copyrights by reproducing their legal documents. Earlier this week, Manhattan District Judge Jed Rakoff dismissed some of their claims.
In their suit, lawyers Edward White and Kenneth Elan claimed LexisNexis and Westlaw were 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.” They said the databases’ parent companies, Reed Elsevier and West Publishing, respectively, didn’t have permission from authoring lawyers to publish their legal documents, and that the companies have raked in “huge profits” by selling access to the databases.
White and Elan sought to represent two classes of lawyers: those who have obtained copyright registration of their works, as White has, and the vast majority of those, such as Elan, who haven’t registered their works.
On Wednesday, Judge Rakoff dismissed the proposed class of lawyers who fell into Elan’s camp, saying “completing registration or pre-registration is a prerequisite to filing a claim.” He also said the group can’t seek an injunction or a declaratory judgment that LexisNexis and Westlaw broke the law.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the suit isn’t dead. Neither of the two legal databases has moved to dismiss the claims of White’s proposed class of attorneys who have registered their legal briefs.