Extras – Jurisline.com: It's All Over, Including the Shouting

T. R. Halvorson is a lawyer in sole practice in Sidney, MT, President of Pastel Programming Co. , a division of Synoptic Text Information Services, Inc., and author of Law of the Super Searchers: the Online Secrets of Top Legal Researchers , How to Avoid Liability: The Information Professional’s Guide to Negligence and Warranty Risks, and Legal Liability Problems in Cyberspace: Craters in the Information Highway.

[Editor’s Note: Jurisline.com’s Press Release from June 20, 2000]

Both lawsuits between Reed Elsevier Inc. and Matthew Bender & Company, Inc., on one side, and Jurisline.com LLC on the other side ended yesterday. Jurisline used data from the Lexis Law on Disc CD-ROMs owned by Matthew Bender to create case law databases at its website. Jurisline sued Reed Elsevier in federal court claiming that its use of the data was proper under federal copyright law which it said preempts the state law of licenses that prohibit their use of the data. Jurisline also sued Reed Elsevier for alleged antitrust violations contending that West Publishing Company and LEXIS share a monopoly in the market for comprehensive computerized legal research. Matthew Bender sued Jurisline.com and one of its founders, Lee Eichen, for fraud and breach of license. Matthew Bender claimed Eichen had misrepresented himself and his intended use of the data when he subscribed to the CD-ROM service. Eichen represented himself as a sole legal practitioner who would only used the data in connection with his practice of law, and then used the data to create Jurisline.com’s online service.

The federal court dismissed all of Jurisline.com’s claims on June 19, 2000. The federal court’s judgment included the decisive ruling that Matthew Bender’s state law claims were not preempted by the federal law of copyright. Following that ruling, final judgment was entered against Jurisline.com and Lee Eichen in state court, with their consent.

The judgment in state court:

  • declares that the license agreements under which Reed Elsevier Inc. and Matthew Bender license case law and statutory materials are valid and enforceable.
  • directs Jurisline.com to delete from its web site and storage media all the material that they obtained under license from Matthew Bender and its predecessor, and requires Jurisline.com to cease and desist from providing to any third parties the content licensed from Matthew Bender and Reed Elsevier Inc.
  • compels Jurisline.com to return to Matthew Bender all of the licensed CD-ROMs and copies of them in its possession.
  • prohibits Jurisline.com from using the LEXIS databases except as may be authorized in writing by either Matthew Bender or Reed Elsevier Inc.
  • requires the immediate transfer by Jurisline.com to Reed Elsevier Inc. of 48 domain names.

Jurisline.com’s claims were dismissed with prejudice, which means that they cannot be refiled. The fact that the state court judgment was entered with Jurisline.com’s and Lee Eichen’s consent normally means that there will be no appeal.

Absent from the judgment is any award of monetary damages from Jurisline.com or Lee Eichen to Matthew Bender. The collection of remedies awarded to Reed Elsevier and Matthew Bender are thorough and effective in enforcing their licenses, but not vindictive.

Matthew Bender’s attorney, Stephen Kaye of Proskauer Rose LLP, said on June 19 the rulings “terminate the litigation very successfully for our clients.” Briefs and oral arguments by Kaye had exposed weaknesses in Jurisline.com’s antitrust and copyright preemption claims. Copies of the final judgment in state court and the stipulation of discontinuance in federal court obtained on June 19 show that none of the claims by Jurisline.com and Lee Eichen carried any weight.

Jurisline.com was still online late on June 19, 2000, but cessation of the service likely will follow shortly to comply .

Copyright © 2000 T. R. Halvorson.

Posted in: Extras, Intellectual Property, Online Legal Research Services