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Government Relations

Unauthorized Copying of Transcripts

For the latest information on the Unauthorized Copying of Transcripts, view the following NCRA communications:

Who Owns the Transcript?  [Acrobat] [Members]

How Should Reporters Be Compensated? [Acrobat] [Members]

Dollars and Sense of Transcript Ownership [Acrobat]

Except for not being paid at all for one's work, there may be no more vexing issue for judicial reporters than finding out attorneys are photocopying and sharing the one copy of the transcript that was ordered.

What rights do reporters have in this situation? Who owns the transcript, and who can authorize its duplication? Who can collect for its sale?

In most cases, unfortunately, the short answers to questions like these are not encouraging for reporters.

Transcripts do not fall into any of the eight categories of creations that automatically qualify for copyright protection. One case that directly applies (Lippman v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts 475 F.2nd 565) states that a court reporter's transcript is not a copyrightable work, creating a precedent for similar cases.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, specifically rule 30(f)(2), gives the court reporter in a federal case the right to charge a reasonable fee for a copy of the transcript. However, other sections of the FRCP assign custody of the transcript to the noticing attorney, thus undermining the notion of a property right on the part of the reporter in the transcript. Each state has its own rules of procedure, so reporters should thoroughly research what applies in their states.

In Ohio in 2003, the court of appeals overturned a judge's ruling that an attorney should obtain copies of transcripts from the court reporter rather than from the court clerk. NCRA filed an amicus curiae brief in the matter.

One other avenue of hope involves theft of services. Reporters should check their state's criminal code to see if it might apply.