Q: Are court documents considered public domain for purposes of posting them on a website or blog?
I'm being sued by a copyright troll and want to document the process on my website. However, I don't want to get sued for posting court documents online.
Does it make any difference if I am the plaintiff, defendant, or an uninterested third-party?
A: Depends on what the document is. Judicial opinions and orders from Federal Judges are not copyrighted, as it is Federal work product. For state judicial opinions and orders, the courts have not allowed an enforceable copyright. Recently some lawyers sued West and Lexis for having their briefs as part of their research products. West & Lexis argued fair use, and while an order was issued in their favor, the written opinion as to reasons for the judges decision has not yet been released. That said, there are copyrighted documents that are filed that do not lose their copyright (e.g. the Harry Potter books have been attached to filings in previous cases).
Ansel Jay Halliburton agrees with this answer
There is some new information on this question as of July 2014. Judge Jed S. Rakoff in the Southern District of New York issued a more detailed opinion which found that collecting legal briefs by lawyers (not just opinions and orders by judges) was fair use.
Professor Eric Goldman summarizes the issues and the case, which is White v. Westlaw:
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