While most government documents are in the public domain, not all of them are. Here’s a story about some copyrighted state legal forms and the state (Montana) that sued a company that violated that copyright. The defendants were charging someone lots of money for the forms – when state residents could have used the forms for no charge at all in their own court cases.
This happens in Oregon, too. Before buying legal forms online, find out if there are any free, official Oregon legal forms available. You can ask at the Oregon State Bar, at an Oregon county law library, or you can post the question to L-net.
“State Law Library of Montana Wins Legal Forms Case,” by Judy Meadows, State Law Library of Montana
“Montana Supreme Court’s Commission on Self-Represented Litigants (the Commission) and Montana Legal Services Association have spent years developing, reviewing, editing and approving legal forms that are easy to understand and compliant with state law. These forms are then posted on the State Law Library of Montana’s website, as well as on MontanaLawHelp. The purpose of the forms is to help people access the legal redress they are seeking, and to get on with their lives. These are almost universally low income Montanans who cannot afford attorneys.
These forms have been registered with the United States Copyright Office. On each page of each form is language stating that the forms cannot be used by commercial entities, and providing the copyright notice….” [Read full story on pp. 4-5, SCCLL News, vol. 37, no. 3, Fall 2011]
If the above links fail, visit the SCCLL homepage and follow links to the Newsletter.
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Disclaimer: It is against state law for library staff members to engage in any conduct that might constitute the unauthorized practice of law (ORS 9.160, 9.166 and 9.21). They may not interpret statutes, cases or regulations, perform legal research, recommend or assist in the preparation of forms, or advise patrons regarding their legal rights. They may, however, assist patrons in locating materials or links that would aid in individual research.