Is copying a legal document (e.g., contract) copyright infringement?

Someone asked me…so I did some Google searching, finding this excellent blog post on the Adams Drafting blog:  The Contract Drafter as Copyright Violator. See also this Trademark Blog post.

He mentions searching via the SEC’s EDGAR database, but I have a trick of the trade for doing just that:

The SEC has an extensive collection of documents online…but they are horribly indexed and impossible to search effectively.  See: has what they claim is “a searchable database of the most-sophisticated Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) EDGAR® database and Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) SEDAR® database service on the Web, with billions of links added to the SEC/CSA documents and exhibits to enable easier navigation…”’s approach is much better…but it’s still not Google.

What if we use Google to search the databases?

Let’s presume that we were looking for patent license agreement with a royalty rate that is adjusted based on inflation.

Searching Google for: “patent license agreement” royalty “inflation adjustment”

Yields 34 hits, including:

Search Results

Just don’t infringe any copyrights while you use that trick of the trade….

8 thoughts on “Is copying a legal document (e.g., contract) copyright infringement?”

  1. What about idea-expression merger? I mean, how different ways are there to write a venue provision or a merger clause?

  2. Great point Brad. I guess it is a question of whether (in a way) the language is functional (yes, it is odd to apply an word like “functional” to copyrights). ;-)

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