Law Students Line Up Behind 'Baby Blue' -- Will Harvard Law Review Sue?

from the law-student-on-law-student-legal-action dept

Back in 2014, we wrote about a crazy story, where the Harvard Law Review was claiming copyright over legal citation standards. It's true that the Harvard Law Review Association has published the famous "Bluebook" of legal citation standards for many years, but the idea that such citations are copyrightable is crazy. In response to this, law professor Chris Sprigman and open records guru Carl Malamud alerted the world of their intention to publish "Baby Blue" -- a competing legal citations publication. They noted that the 10th edition of the Bluebook, which as published in 1958, had clearly fallen into the public domain, and they were going to use that as the starting point for their competing product. Late in December, we pointed out that Harvard Law Review freaked out after its expensive Ropes & Gray lawyers saw a few tweets from Malamud suggesting Baby Blue was almost ready for publication. On Christmas Eve, a pricey lawyer sent off a nastygram, threatening a copyright infringement lawsuit if Baby Blue were published.

It took another month and a half or so, but Baby Blue is now available -- and it appears that law students are lining up behind it, rather than the Bluebook. A bunch of folks at Yale Law School and NYU Law School have come out in support of Baby Blue. It appears other law schools are jumping on board as well -- including Harvard Law School, Stanford and more.

Meanwhile, law professor David Post has provided a bit of free legal advice for the Harvard Law Review:

Here’s a bit of free legal advice: If you want to assert copyright protection over something, don’t call it “A Uniform System of Citation” —  because systems are, by definition, unprotected by copyright. Section 102(b) of the Copyright Act couldn’t be clearer:

In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, [or] method of operation, … regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

And now... everyone gets to wait and see what the Harvard Law Review Association decides to do.
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Filed Under: baby blue, bluebook, carl malamud, chris sprigman, citations, copyright, legal citations, public domain
Companies: harvard, harvard law review, harvard law review association, nyu, stanford, yale


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  1. icon
    nasch (profile), 15 Feb 2016 @ 9:11am

    Re: Don’t call it “A Uniform System of Citation”

    You would think lawyers for a law review would at least check the law before sending anything out.

    I'm guessing there's enough money at stake to make it worth considering filing a lawsuit even if they know it's flimsy.

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