By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK, Feb 11 (Reuters) - A federal judge in Manhattan
has thrown out a copyright lawsuit brought by an attorney who
sued legal research companies Westlaw and LexisNexis, claiming
they had unlawfully profited from his copyrighted legal filings.
In a brief ruling issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Jed
Rakoff dismissed Edward White's lawsuit. White, who specializes
in intellectual property law, had alleged that Westlaw, owned by
Thomson Reuters Corp, and LexisNexis, owned by Reed Elsevier
Plc, profited by selling his copyrighted legal briefs in their
Rakoff said that his reasoning for dismissing the lawsuit
would be laid out in a subsequent opinion.
The lawsuit was initially filed in 2012 by White and Kenneth
Elan, a solo practitioner based in New York.
According to the complaint, the companies 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
The lawsuit sought class action status on behalf of two
groups of lawyers: those who registered their documents with the
U.S. Copyright Office and those who did not.
In May, Rakoff dismissed Elan from the lawsuit and struck
the proposed subclass of lawyers who had not copyrighted their
White filed an amended complaint, dropping the class
certification request and seeking an unspecified amount of
damages based on the inclusion of his copyrighted legal briefs
in Westlaw's "Litigator" and LexisNexis's "Briefs, Pleadings and
On a motion for summary judgment, White said lawyers and law
firms own the copyright to their own materials and that "a
court's docket is not a lawless, copyright-free zone," according
to his motion papers.
Westlaw and Lexis countered that they were entitled to use
the documents under the doctrine of fair use, according to court
filings. They noted that the documents were generally available
to the public via the Pacer filing system. They also argued that
their use of the documents was "transformative," taking the
documents and enhancing them to make them searchable and useful
for legal practitioners.
A spokesman for Thomson Reuters, which also owns Reuters and
Thomson Reuters News & Insight, said that the company was
pleased with Rakoff's decision.
"Briefs and other court filings have been offered on Westlaw
since 2003, and have been of immense value to attorneys and
others seeking access to them," said the spokesman, John
Shaughnessy. "This decision enables us to continue to provide
this service without interruption."
A spokeswoman for LexisNexis declined to comment. White
could not be immediately reached for comment Monday.
The case is Edward White v. West Publishing Corp, U.S.
District Court for the Southern District of New York, No.
For White: Raymond Bragar of Bragar Wexler Eagel & Squires,
and Gregory Blue.
For Westlaw: Benjamin Marks, Robert Bruce Rich, John Gerba
and Jonathan Bloom of Weil Gotshal & Manges.
For LexisNexis: James Hough, Cindy Abramson, Craig Whitney,
James McCabe and Paul Goldstein of Morrison & Foerster.
(A previous version of this article misspelled the name of
Follow us on Twitter @ReutersLegal | Like us on Facebook