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Carl Malamud of Public.Resource.Org has long done yeoman’s work in furtherance of the public domain. Who can forget that it was he who forced the SEC to build and maintain the EDGAR database for public access to company filings? And he’s long been on the side of open law (“Law is the operating system of our society … So show me the manual!”).
Now he’s working on a little side project to find out — and more importantly make publicly accessible! — how much of the scholarly journal literature is actually in the public domain:
“Our audit has determined that 1,264,429 journal articles authored by federal employees or officers are potentially void of copyright…In addition, 2,031,359 of the articles in my possession are dated 1923 or earlier. These 2 categories represent 4.92% of scihub.”
This represents only a small chunk of the 63+ million articles estimated to be available in SciHub, the rebel search engine that bypasses publisher paywalls to give free access to over 62,000,000 academic papers (one could, if one were intrigued, access SciHub via onion link in the Tor browser). After his analysis is done, he’ll be making it publicly available. Way to go Carl!
Read Carl’s entire tweet thread below:
1/10 Public Resource has been conducting an intensive audit of the scholarly literature. We have focused on works of the U.S. government.
— Carl Malamud (@carlmalamud) June 6, 2017
Carl Malamud has been fighting for free public access to private standards (like building codes) that are “incorporated by reference” into the law. Such standards are usually copyrighted and not published in official, public domain versions of the law. The federal district court in Washington DC has just ruled that this practice of, essentially, copyrighting the law is legal.
- Federal Court Basically Says It’s Okay To Copyright Parts Of Our Laws, by Mike Masnick, techdirt (Feb 3rd 2017).
- Memorandum Opinion United States District Court For The District Of Columbia. American Society For Testing and Materials, Et Al., and American Educational Research Association, Inc. Et Al., v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc. Case No. 13-cv-1215 (TSC), Case No. 14-cv-0857 (TSC). Case 1:14-cv-00857-TSC Document 117 Filed 02/02/17.
The court basically ordered Malamud to delete all these standards from the internet saying:
the public interest is served by the policy interests that underlie the Copyright Act itself, namely the protection of financial incentives for the continued creation of valuable works, and the continued value in maintaining the public-private system in place in the U.S. to ensure continued development of technical standards.
techdirt comments: “Did you get that ridiculous sleight of hand? The public is served by no longer having access to the law because it’s better for some private organizations to get rich off of the standards that are a part of the law, or else such standards might not be developed. Huh?” [emphasis added]
A story about Carl Malamud’s long fight to keep public information public. Details his current fight against a lawsuit that seeks to keep laws that cover building codes, plumbing regulations, and product safety rules for baby seats accessible only for a fee.
For the past 25 years or so, Carl Malamud’s lonely mission has been to seize on the internet’s potential for spreading information — public information that people have a right to see, hear, and read.
I don’t know how the state of Georgia got to this convoluted way of thinking, but they’re suing Carl Malamud and public.resource.org for copyright infringement because he had the audacity to try and make states’ laws freely and publicly accessible. Go ahead and read the law suit and see for yourself how twisted their legal argument is.
Two years ago, we wrote about the state of Georgia ridiculously threatening to sue Carl Malamud and his site Public.Resource.org for copyright infringement… for publishing an official annotated copy of the state’s laws. This followed on a similar threat from the state of Oregon, which wisely backed down. Malamud has spent the last few years of his life doing wonderful and important work trying to make sure that the laws that we live by are actually available to the public. The specific issue here is that while the basic Georgia legal code is available to the public, the state charges a lot of money for the “Official Code of Georgia Annotated.” The distinction here is fairly important — but it’s worth noting that the courts will regularly rely on the annotations in the official code, which more or less makes them a part of the law itself. And then, the question is whether or not the law itself should be subject to copyright restrictions. Malamud has long argued no, while the state has obviously argued yes, probably blinded by the revenue from selling its official copy of the annotated code.
It took two years, but the state has now done the absolutely ridiculous thing of suing Malamud. It is about as ridiculous as you would expect again focusing on the highly questionable claim that the Official Code of Georgia Annotated is covered by federal copyright law — and that not only was Malamud (*gasp*) distributing it, but also… creating derivative works! Oh no! And, he’s such an evil person that he was encouraging others to do so as well!
[UPDATE 1/14/14: the hearing including Carl Malamud’s testimony is now available vis CSPAN. JRJ]
Carl Malamud will be testifying at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Scope of Copyright Protection On Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 10AM. Hi testimony will be on the subject of Edicts of Government, including copyright assertions over state laws and federally-mandated public safety codes. He’s made his prepared statement available on his public.resource.org site.
Chairman Goodlatte, Subcommittee Chairman Coble, Ranking Member Conyers, and members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to provide to you this testimony on the subject of edicts of government. In this testimony, I will:
- Review the long-standing doctrine in the common law that edicts of government have no copyright because such court opinions, statutes, regulations, and other pronouncements of general applicability belong to the people.
- Discuss the legal threats that my non-profit, Public.Resource.Org, faces from several states for copying and posting their state laws online.
- Discuss similar threats that Public.Resource.Org faces for posting public safety codes incorporated by reference into federal and state law.
- Discuss why making the law available is not a threat to the business models of standards bodies and codification companies and why making these laws available is essential to promote innovation and the rule of law.
- Propose a simple amendment to the Copyright Act to bring it into line with long-standing Supreme Court precedent and with public policy.