Ownership of Attorney Work Product

Copyright ownership of attorney work product is an under-discussed issues among attorneys. It raises a variety of complex issues, including who owns the copyright in the documents we prepare as attorneys and when do we infringe by recycling our work or “borrowing” from others. I think this is such an interesting issue that I tested my copyright students on it in 2002. See the exam and my sample answer. Ken Adams has also blogged on the topic (here and here, or the combined article here), and the topic routinely sparks flamewars on CNI-Copyright.

In the recent issue of Business Law News (the periodical for members of the Business Law Section of the CA State Bar), Greg Victoroff published Copyrights in Attorney Work Product: Panacea or Pandora’s Box?, an admirable and thorough discussion of the topic. Although I haven’t found a web-accessible version, it’s worth tracking down if you’re interested in the topic. I don’t agree with his basic agenda (of promoting copyright interests in attorneys-qua-authors–for example, I think it’s silly to put a CR notice on court submissions), but he’d get an A for issue-spotting on my exam!

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