Can members of a political party committee claim copyright in their correspondence with other members of that committee, on an official committee list, for the purpose of preventing the display of that content to the party’s membership and the public?

My assertion: No.

I believe my interpretation of the applicable law (as explained in this Copyright Office circular — PDF) is reasonable. It is as follows:

  • Messages from committee members to the committee’s official discussion list are works “prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment.”
  • Messages from committee members to the committee’s official discussion list are works “specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work.”
Membership in the a political party committee constitutes being an “employee” under the agency doctrine explained in the circular vis a vis “Control by the employer over the work” insofar as the work is done under the authority of, and according to the rules laid down by the employer (the party and/or its national committee); “Control by employer over the employee” (the party and/or its national committee outline the terms, schedule and objectives of the committee’s work and how the members are identified and qualified); and the status and conduct of the employer (commissioning committees for the production of specified work product is part of its regular operations as noted in its governing documents).
So, fair warning: If you are a member of a Libertarian Party committee and I am a member of that same committee, don’t bother trying to pull any “you can’t show the rest of the party what I’m saying on the committee’s discussion list because I claim copyright in it” shit. It won’t fly.

Imported from the original KN@PPSTER