Legal research companies LexisNexis and Westlaw can breathe a sigh of relief now that a judge has tossed a copyright suit against them.
Last February, two lawyer—Edward White and Kenneth Elan—sued Reed Elsevier Plc-owned LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters Corp.-owned Westlaw, claiming they unlawfully profited by selling their legal documents in their databases. White and Elan sought to represent two classes of lawyers: those who had obtained copyright registration of their works, as White had, and those such as Elan, who hadn’t.
Three months later, Manhattan District Judge Jed 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.”
White then filed an amended complaint that dropped his class certification request and sought unspecified damages. Meanwhile, LexisNexis and Westlaw claimed they had a right to use the documents in question under the fair-use doctrine because they were generally available to the public through the Pacer filing system. Additionally, the companies argued that their use of the documents was “transformative” because they enhanced them to make them searchable and useful for lawyers.
Last Friday, Rakoff dismissed White’s suit, saying he would lay out his reasoning for doing so in a forthcoming opinion.
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