Copyright

SpicyIP Tidbit: Harvard Blue Book is in the Public Domain!


bluebookAccording to a letter written by Christopher Jon Springman (Professor, NYU School of Law representing Carl Malamud) to Peter M. Brody of Ropes & Gray LLP (law firm representing Harvard Law Review Association), ‘Public Resource. Org’ (an organization founded by Carl Malamud which shares and publishes public-domain materials in the United States) would soon be publishing a public domain version of the Harvard Blue Book.

Mr. Springman, in his letter, notes that the copyright on the 10th edition of The Bluebook which was published in 1958 has long expired since it was never renewed. Further, an analysis of the copyright status of the 19th edition of the Bluebook reveals that much of the content of the latest edition of the Bluebook having been borrowed from its 10th edition (which is technically in the public domain) or comprised of non-copyrightable material, is also available for public use.

Mr. Springman and Carl Malamud would soon be publishing a public domain version of the Bluebook (a project which they refer to as ‘Baby Blue’).

Public-domain activist Carl Malamud has long been advocating that Bluebook should be in the public domain. He argues that the Bluebook being the standard method of citation (as mandated by US courts), one cannot claim copyright over it in the first place; the Uniform System of Citation has acquired the status of an edict of the Government and therefore, should be in the public domain.

In sharp contrast to the Harvard Bluebook, OSCOLA (Oxford University Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities), the modern method of legal citation in United Kingdom, is freely available under a Creative Commons License. Similarly, jurisdictions like New Zealand and Australia also make their legal citation guides available online.

The Bluebook system of citation is currently owned by four law reviews: Harvard Law Review Association, Columbia Law Review Association, Yale Law Journal Company and University of Pennsylvania Law Review. As observed by Carl Malamud, the copyright claimed on Harvard Bluebook has often acted as a financial impediment for pro se litigants and indigent litigants. The Bluebook copyright has also acted as a barrier to innovation for those who want to develop better citation tools.

Thanks to Baby Blue, we would very soon have a public domain version of the Bluebook. Closer home, this is indeed welcome news for law students in India who often have to rely on the Harvard Bluebook for legal citations when preparing moot memorials and writing research papers.

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