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Copyright Status of Court Judgments

Purpose: To guide all barristers on copyright status of court judgements
Scope of application: All practising barristers
Issued by: The Ethics Committee
First reviewed: 01/11/2016
Last reviewed: 01/11/2019
Status and effect: Please see the notice at end of this document. This is not "guidance" for the purposes of the BSB Handbook I6.4.

1. General guidance in copyright matters is contained in the document “Copyright Guidelines”.

2. The position regarding copyright in court judgments is not, however, entirely clear. Copyright material which is produced by employees of the Crown in the course of their duties and therefore most material originated by ministers and civil servants is protected by Crown copyright. There is no definitive view on whether court judgments are Crown copyright. The advice of the Treasury Solicitor is that copyright in court judgments is owned by the Crown, because judges are servants of the Crown and their judgments are delivered in the course of their duties. However, this is not a universally held view and it has been argued that judges act independently of the Crown and that they own the copyright in their judgments.

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This document has been prepared by the Bar Council to assist barristers on matters of professional conduct and ethics. It is not “guidance” for the purposes of the BSB Handbook I6.4, and neither the BSB nor a disciplinary tribunal nor the Legal Ombudsman is bound by any views or advice expressed in it. It does not comprise – and cannot be relied on as giving – legal advice. It has been prepared in good faith, but neither the Bar Council nor any of the individuals responsible for or involved in its preparation accept any responsibility or liability for anything done in reliance on it. For fuller information as to the status and effect of this document, please see here.

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