Apparently even the cease-and-desist letters sent to sites to inform them to stop violating copyrights are now – copyrighted. TechDirt is reporting an update to a case they first covered back in October where a lawyer tried to claim his cease-and-desist letters fell under a copyright, and thus no one could legally reprint them without his express permission. The people’s advocacy group, Public Citizen, saw this as a violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution, and moved to stop it.
Yet from the look of a press release put out yesterday by the lawyer in question, it seems the judge agreed the man’s claim. The publication of a letter can now result statutory damages for as much as $150,000 per occurrence plus attorneys’ fees that can average $750,000 through trial.
The lawyer isn’t wrong but it just seems really petty to sue for copyright infringement where a cease-and-desist letter is republished. This sort of thing happens from time to time, especially when a well known blogger or blog receives one of these letters and wants to highlight the issues. Technically speaking, though, the letter the lawyer writes is probably subject to his copyright although there may be legitimate grounds to still republish that letter, depending on your jurisdiction. Even if there are no legitimate grounds, this just highlights how protective some lawyers can be over their knowledge.