There are two main legal avenues for states to create a barrier to access for legal information: copyright claims, and perhaps less well known, usage restrictions hidden in website terms of use.  While these appear on both state created and corporate outsourced websites, it is much more common to see restrictive terms of use on the commercial websites.

These attempts at controlling the use of law are generally prohibitions towards commercial use of the legal information contained within – both in vague “for personal use only terms” and specific “not to be resold” ones.  There are also prohibitions against web scraping or attempts to republish the information.  These occur mostly in the regulations and code publications, but there are a few restrictions placed on the usage of case law.

Some examples of the restrictions placed on codes, regulations and case law are:

  • Under KRS 61.874, it is unlawful to use any records available on this site for a commercial purpose without agreement with the Legislative Research Commission. (Kentucky Code)
  • This website is intended for use by natural persons in obtaining information provided by the Secretary of State.  Use of computerized “robots” or “data mining” of the information and images presented here is prohibited.  Misuse of this website is prohibited and may result in the revocation of access to those persons or organizations using this site in a way not intended by the Secretary of State. (Colorado Regulations)
  • The rules information on this website is intended for personal, not commercial, use. The Office of the Revisor of Statutes does not authorize further dissemination of this material for sale or any commercial purpose. (Minnesota Regulations)
  • Unless permitted under the Terms of Use for this website, no part of this website may be reproduced, duplicated, copied, downloaded, stored, further transmitted, disseminated, transferred, or otherwise exploited without Thomson Reuters’ prior written consent. Please consult notices and terms for individual products and services referenced herein. (Emphasis Added) (California Regulations)
  • These archives, however, are for personal, not commercial, use. (Massachusetts Case Law)
  • The Supreme Court of Ohio grants you a limited license to access and make personal use of this site and not to download (other than page caching) or modify it, or any portion of it, except with express written consent of the Supreme Court of Ohio. This license does not include any resale or commercial use of this site or its contents; any derivative use of this site or its contents; any downloading or copying of account information for the benefit of another; or any use of data mining, robots, or similar data gathering and extraction tools. This site or any portion of this site may not be reproduced, duplicated, copied, sold, resold, visited, or otherwise exploited for any commercial purpose without express written consent of the Supreme Court of Ohio. (Ohio Case Law)

Perhaps due the high use of regulations by business, they contain by far the most restrictions of the three types of primary law.  Of fifty (50) websites surveyed,  eleven (11) contained a restriction on use of the legal information contained within. (Click to enlarge)

RegRestrictionsCodes were the second most restricted, with eight (8) out of fifty (50) websites containing restrictions on use.

CodeRestrictionsFinally, while rare, there were a few restrictions placed on the usage of case law.  Out of the one hundred and five (105) sites, eight (8) had restrictive terms of use.