Feb 23 (Reuters) - Two lawyers have sued the owners of
legal research companies Westlaw and LexisNexis, alleging the
companies' online databases unlawfully reproduced court filings
written by the attorneys.
Attorneys Edward White and Kenneth Elan on Wednesday filed a
lawsuit seeking class-action status in federal court in
Manhattan. They allege that Westlaw, owned by Thomson Reuters
Corp, and Lexis Nexis, owned by Reed Elsevier Plc, infringe the
copyrights of works owned by the attorneys and law firms that
Westlaw and LexisNexis engaged in "wholesale unlawful
copying of attorneys' copyrighted work, bundled those works into
searchable databases, and sold access to those works in the form
of digitized text and images for huge profits," the complaint
said. Access to LexisNexis' briefs, pleadings and motions costs
a single attorney $960 per year, while Westlaw charges $622 a
month for its briefs product, according to the lawsuit.
Thomson Reuters, which also owns Reuters and Thomson Reuters
News & Insight, declined to comment on the litigation.
LexisNexis did not immediately respond to requests for
The lawsuit seeks damages on behalf of two classes of
attorneys: those who registered their documents with the
Copyright Office and those who did not. While unregistered works
can have copyright protection, federal copyright law generally
requires copyright holders to register their works before suing
for infringement. Registration also entitles copyright holders
to specific damages if the court finds a violation. Typically,
lawyers do not register copyrights for their legal briefs and
White is a solo practitioner based in Oklahoma City who
specializes in intellectual property law. Elan is a solo
practitioner based in New York.
Separately, on Tuesday, the Ontario Superior Court of
Justice in Canada gave the green light for a similar case
against Thomson Reuters Canada Ltd to proceed as a class action.
In that case, filed in 2010, a Toronto lawyer filed suit
alleging that Thomson Reuters' Canadian legal publishing branch,
Carswell, reproduced attorneys' copyrighted works without
The latest U.S. suit is White et al v. West Publishing Corp
et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No.
For White et al: Gregory Blue of Gregory A. Blue; Raymond
Bragar of Bragar Wexler Eagel & Squire.
For West: Not immediately available.
For Reed Elsevier: Not immediately available.
(Reporting by Terry Baynes)
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