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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

More on Oregon

Carl Malamud’s Oregon page is now updated with the testimony from last week’s hearing:


Big News – Oregon

From Tim Stanley’s Justia blog:

“Oregon’s Legislative Counsel Committee had a meeting this morning to discuss the copyright claim on the Oregon Revised Statutes. After taking legal counsel from Dexter Johnson, talking with Karl Olson, Carl Malamud, three Oregon citizens and myself, they unanimously voted to not to enforce any copyright claims on the Oregon Revised Statutes. This great!!!”

And, I just read this on BoingBoing:

“Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez,

“Justia and Public.Resource.Org were invited, along with Karl Olson our counsel, to testify before the Oregon Legislative Counsel Committee. We were joined by a public panel of wikipedians and open source advocates.”

“The process was incredibly well organized. There was a comprehensive briefing packet prepared for the committee, the members asked lots of intelligent questions, and then Dexter Johnson the Legislative Counsel recommended to the committee that they waive assertion of copyright on their statutes. The Majority Leader placed the motion, the President of the Senate called the vote, and the vote was unanimous. This was democracy in action and was great to watch.”

Oregon Revised Statutes – Copyright Hearing Update

[cross posted on Legal Research Plus]

For those of you following the question regarding the copyright of Oregon’s Revised Statutes, you might want to visit: public.resource.org/oregon.

The State of Oregon has scheduled a hearing for June 19, 2008 to “consider its copyright policy in light of technological developments and the Internet.”

And, the Public.Resource site now has links to the testimony submitted by Carl Malamud, Tim Stanley and Karl Olson.

Also, if you want to listen to the hearing on Thursday, June 19th, there is a Real Video feed available .

Oregon – Hot Topic

[cross posted on legalresearchplus]

We are pleased to announce the AALL Hot Topic for the annual meeting in Portland, Oregon will be Push Back and Push Forward – Open Access in Oregon and Beyond. So mark your calendars: Sunday, July 13th at 4:15pm.

The program will feature Carl Malamud (public.resource.org) and Tim Stanley (Justia.com).

Recently, the State of Oregon Legislative Counsel Committee sent Justia a notice of copyright infringement and demand to cease and desist online publication of the Revised Statutes online. Carl Malamud and Tim Stanley will share the story of this struggle to keep the laws of Oregon freely available.

But what about the rest of the country? Can state governments prohibit others from downloading, reproducing or distributing their laws? Can courts provide similar restrictions by the nature of their vendor dealings (they do in California!)? Carl Malamud and Tim Stanley will address these questions, too, sharing their concerns and experiences in this area.

This session will provide both an update on a timely issue, and serve as a call to action on how each of us can get involved in the open access movement.

And, on the topic of Oregon, Peter Forsyth has an interesting post on the WikiProject Oregon site. I pasted it below for further reading and perhaps an inspiration for getting involved.

From WikiProject Oregon, posted by Peter Forsyth:

This Thursday, the Oregon Legislative Counsel Committee (LCC) will be holding a hearing that should be of major interest to anyone with an interest in Oregon law, and in building (or using) public resources on the Internet. The topic: whether or not the laws that we, the people of Oregon write are in the public domain, or whether the State can prevent their republication by insisting on licensing arrangements.

A couple months back, the LCC — which provides legal advice to the state legislature, and edits draft legislation — issued a takedown notice to justia.com, which was hosting the Oregon Revised Statutes. Justia is a web site that publishes state laws (free of charge, and without advertising) from all states, in a standard format.

Legislative Counsel Dexter Johnson issued the takedown notice under direction from the LCC, and cited a 1953 law that gives it authority to make determinations about ownership of various works of the Legislature. He wrote that although the words of the laws themselves are in the public domain, some of the text involved in their publication — the section numbers, descriptive text, etc. — is owned by the State, and protected by copyright.

California-based nonprofit public.resource.org has been the leading advocate for getting this policy changed. They have retained counsel to challenge the policy. Their research indicates both that there aren’t solid legal grounds for this policy, and that it is contrary to the public interest.

The LCC has invited Public.resource.org to give testimony at their next public meeting, but there is no formal representation for Oregon’s community of wiki editors, bloggers, etc.

I expect to testify at the hearing, and would welcome the company of any other Oregon folks. Let me know if you want to come! Additionally, I’d encourage you all to write your legislators (find out who they are here), and the members of the LCC. I’ll try to work up a standard letter in the next day or two, so you don’t have to compose from scratch; watch this post for further news.

JURIS Released

[cross posted on LegalResearchPlus]

The good folks at public.resource.org have just released a new collection on their site: Justice.gov. This collection, once known as FLITE and then later as JURIS, is a digital collection of federal case law. The story behind this is quite fascinating, too.

From the Public.Resource.org site:

“Back when disco was king, the USAF decided that those new-fangled computers might be just the thing for the JAG Corps, so they set a bunch of flyboys down in front of keypunch machines and made a database of U.S. law called FLITE. After several turf-grabbing campaigns and a massive meeting of BOGSATT, the system was taken over by the Department of Justice and re-dubbed JURIS.”

“But, the lawyers in Justice were jealous of their pin-stripe buddies in private practice, so they got themselves high-priced West and Lexis-Nexis accounts so that they could be professional. Then, they deleted the JURIS database from government computers so there would be no going back. Today, the U.S. government does not possess a digital copy of the cases and codes that make up the law of the land.”
“One copy of JURIS survives, acquired by the Linguistic Data Consortium (LDC) of the University of Pennsylvania and available under a carefully restricted license agreement to those who pay the sum of $800 and agree not to redistribute the data. The LDC is a group of linguistic researchers and they acquire corpora of linguistic interest to analyze. By prohibiting redistribution and binding their members to such constraints, they are able to acquire commercial databases to analyze.”

Public.Resource.Org has purchased a copy of the JURIS database and we have requested that the Linguistic Data Consortium free this public domain data so that it may be examined by all. The database consists of 1,665 files totaling 3.1 gbytes. The 522 mega-words in the corpus yields approximately 2,091,628 pages of text.”

UPDATE: Friday, 13 June 2008. We have made the JURIS database available so that you may judge for yourself the importance of these files. You may browse the directory or download the 900 Mbyte tarball. There is a compelling public policy issue in the fact that the Department of Justice deleted 2 million pages of case law after establishing their for-pay contract with a commercial concern. Why did the government delete such a valuable asset that was created at taxpayer expense? Why would a copy not be kept just in case? Why does the government not have a digital copy of their own work product? These are questions of national concern and the public has a right to examine the evidence.”