[Open-Legislation] verdict access

Francis Davey fjmd1a at gmail.com
Tue Apr 12 11:24:58 UTC 2011

On 12 April 2011 10:40, Stefan Sels <stefan at sels.com> wrote:

> Hi open-legislation folks,
> I just read that in Germany after a law is made, the resulting verdicts
> within Germany are considered free, but collecting them into a database is
> considered commercial use and thereby forbidden by the court.

I don't know much about this, but that sounds roughly right. Official works
are exempt from copyright:


Google translation:


I am not sure if that applies to court decisions - I speak no German I'm
afraid, I took Latin at school instead.

However, that exemption applies to copyright not to database right, so while
(as far as I can see) there is nothing to stop you collecting them into a
database, you cannot use someone else's database to do so. Does that make

> According to SPIEGEL:
> http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/web/0,1518,755813,00.html (German)
> Google translated to English
> http://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&sl=auto&tl=en&u=http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/web/0,1518,755813,00.html&prev=_t&rurl=translate.google.com
> Even more strange, a private company owned by invstors called "Juris" (
> http://www.juris.de/jportal/index.jsp) has a contract to aggregate those
> verdicts for one year exclusivly.
> SPIEGEL claims they make an 28% interest with the investment in that
> company. I wonder how this is legal at all: Having "open access" to
> verdicts, preventing to collect them into a database AND giving an exclusive
> license to do exactly that to a privately held company.
> Sounds like a really bad fuckup (to be honest).
> As IANAL can somebody with juridical knowledge confirm this situation? What
> is the situation about verdicts in other EU countries?
In the UK the situation is that (i) there's some dispute as to who owns
copyright in a judicial decision; (ii) there is *enormous* resistance from
the court service to releasing judgments generally, instead they are
released to various partner organisations, most of them commercial (though
bailii is an exception). Numerous and conflicting reasons have been given
for this refusal - so I don't believe any of them.

Most Tribunals and the Supreme Court make available all their decisions on
their respective websites. Which suggests that there cannot be a fundamental

As a professional lawyer I can (just about) afford some access to various
databases, though I find it expensive and difficult. Most of us would
applaud easier access and so would the general public. I have been pushing
for it for some years.

There is an added problem in the UK which is that many of our courts give
judgments orally. Anyone who transcribes an oral judgment obtains their own
copyright in that transcript and so can prevent its reuse. There is (in
general) no public transcription so one is reliant on private transcribers.

> If this is current reality, it needs to be changed of course....
I couldn't agree more.

Francis Davey
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