Does the New Jeb Bush Book Infringe Hundreds of Copyrights?

by Bob Schwartz

Jeb Bush - Reply All

A funny thing: None of the Bush politicians are lawyers. Though they do know some.

Which is one reason Jeb’s new book of his e-mails from being Florida governor (Reply All) is perplexing, along with the question of why he’s publishing it at all. He makes a big point of saying in it that in Florida, letters and e-mails to the governor are part of the public record, which is true. Anyone has the right to read them.

But…that doesn’t settle the question of whether the writers of those letters and e-mails still hold any copyright in them, such that if you (Jeb) decided to collect them all, and publish them in a book of your own that you sold, you might not be infringing their rights. Because the two things—being a public record and giving up the right not to be copied—are two separate things.

I’ll leave it to other lawyers and to journalists to pursue this matter, if it’s worth pursuing, because frankly, I don’t care that much. Maybe it’s just the spectacle of a campaign unraveling in so many ways that has piqued my interest a little. Or wondering, as historians may if they care to, how this all went so wrong.