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Georgia Claims Its Annotated Laws Are Covered By Copyright, Threatens Carl Malamud For Publishing The Law

Georgia Claims Its Annotated Laws Are Covered By Copyright, Threatens Carl Malamud For Publishing The Law, by Mike Masnick, techdirt (Jul 30, 2013).

Masnick notes that, technically, states that claim to be able to copyright their laws are on reasonably firm legal ground, even if they’re on completely illogical common sense ground but that fact “doesn’t make it any saner to claim such a copyright.”

Among other things, Georgia claims (apparently as a justification) that the unannotated Georgia Code is available to the public at no charge at www.legis.ga.gov. Masnick continues:

It’s not as if the state needed the “incentive” of copyright to publish an annotated version of the law. If anything, this seems like copyright misuse. But, even beyond that, it just seems counterproductive from a public policy standpoint to want to make your own laws harder to understand.

Carl Malamud has responded by respectfully declining to remove the Official Code of Georgia Annotated from Public.Resource.Org and quotes the Copyright Office: “Edicts of government, such as judicial opinions, administrative rulings, legislative enactments, public ordinances, and similar official legal documents are not copyrightable for reasons of public policy. This applies to such works whether they are Federal, State, or local as well as to those of foreign governments.” Compendium II: Copyright Office Practices § 206.01 (1984)

California bill to release the state’s building codes online for free

Carl Malamud posted the following to BoingBoing today:

Assemblyman Brian Nestande of California has introduced Assembly Bill 292, which would open source the California Code of Regulations (including the Building Codes!!). The summary reads:

“This bill would provide that the full text of the California Code of Regulations shall bear an open access creative commons attribution license, allowing any individual, at no cost, to use, distribute, and create derivative works based on the material for either commercial or noncommercial purposes.”

Public.Resource.Org has bulk data for the CCR and the public safety codes (known as Title 24) online, but this would all be way easier if we didn’t have to double-key the building codes every 3 years and jump on the West CD-ROM every 2 months to extract the data. This move would lead to tremendous innovation, just like we’ve seen when the Federal Register went open source in bulk.

The bill sponsor, Assemblyman Nestande, has a long background in public policy and IP. He was campaign manager for Sonny Bono’s successful 1994 congressional campaign.

[HT BoingBoing!]

Josh Tauberer Gets Congress Into the 21st Century

This article reports on the importance of a bill that will enable Congress to provide bulk access to its legislative data. It also profiles one of the heroes of open-access to Congressional data, Josh Tauberer. As the Post says, Josh has prodded Congress and the result may be the “raw material for an Angie’s List or a Yelp for Congress, a way for modern users to evaluate lawmakers with the same kind of crowdsourced help that they use to evaluate lunch.”

This is a lot like how Carl Malamud got the SEC to put the EDGAR database online. (SEC’S EDGAR On Net, What Happened And Why, TAP-INFO, 30 Nov 1993).

Congressional data may soon be easier to use online, by David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post, (June 8, 2012)..

Online, searching for a bill in Congress feels a little like time travel: Go looking for legislation, and you wind up in the Internet of 1995.

At Congress’s ’90s-vintage archive site, there’s no way to compare bills side by side. No tool to measure the success rate of a bill’s sponsor. And there’s certainly no way to leave a comment. Congress makes it hard for outside sites to do any of this, either, by refusing to give out bulk data on its bills in a user-friendly form.

On Friday, that might start to change.

Including Full Text of Commercial Standards in the Federal Register, incorporation by reference

What happens when federal agencies rely upon standards developed by standard-setting bodies and communities of practice and incorporate those standards into federal rules? In many cases agencies refer to the standards but do not include the full text of the standards in Federal Register or the Code of Federal Regulations. As a result, those interested in commenting on a particular regulation may not have access to the relevant standard, particularly if it is copyrighted or only accessible for a fee.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Association of Research Libraries, and OpenTheGovernment.org have sent comments to the Administrative Conference of the US recommending that “all material incorporated by reference — regardless of the stage in the regulatory process, the subject matter of the regulation, or the identity of the regulated entity — should be made freely available, with no purported copyright restrictions and downloadable on a government agency’s website.”

Public.Resource.Org submitted comments to the Office of Management and Budget on making standards that are incorporated by reference into federal regulations widely available to the public without charge. Public.Resource.Org also said that such standards should “be deemed in the public domain rather than subject to copyright restrictions.”

  • OpenTheGov and ARL Join EFF in Urging Government to Make all Parts of the Law Easily Available to Everyone (10/24/2011).

    “copyrighted materials, once incorporated into law, should be available for free.” The principles of transparency and accessibility to the law should animate agency decisions in this arena and materials incorporated by reference should be made freely available, online and off, at all times…

  • Revised Draft Recommendations of the Administrative Conference of the US on “Incorporation by Reference in Federal Regulations” ACUS.gov (October 2011)
  • Comments on “Incorporation by Reference in Federal Regulations” (October 21, 2011) To Committee on Administration and Management Administrative Conference of the United States Committee of Administration and Management from Corynne McSherry & Mark Rumold Electronic Frontier Foundation, Prue Adler, Association of Research Libraries, and Patrice McDermott, OpenTheGovernment.org

    We urge ACUS to reject any suggestion that access to the law may be limited where the regulation in question happens to incorporate copyrighted materials. All material incorporated by reference – regardless of the stage in the regulatory process, the subject matter of the regulation, or the identity of the regulated entity – should be made freely available and downloadable on a government agency’s website.

  • Incorporation by Reference, A Proposed Rule by the Federal Register Office on 02/27/2012

    On February 13, 2012, the Office of the Federal Register (OFR or we) received a petition to amend our regulations governing the approval of agency requests to incorporate material by reference into the Code of Federal Regulations. We’ve set out the petition in this document. We would like comments on the broad issues raised by this petition.

  • Re: Request for Information 2012–7602, 77 FR 19357 submitted by Public.Resource.Org to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of the Office of Management and Budget Washington (April 11, 2012).

See also: Liberating America’s secret, for-pay laws.

Liberating America’s secret, for-pay laws

Cory Doctorow says: “This morning, I found a an enormous, 30Lb box waiting for me at my post-office box. Affixed to it was a sticker warning me that by accepting this box into my possession, I was making myself liable for nearly $11 million in damages. The box was full of paper, and printed on the paper were US laws — laws that no one is allowed to publish or distribute without permission. Carl Malamud, Boing Boing’s favorite rogue archivist, is the guy who sent me this glorious box of weird. I was expecting it, because he asked me in advance if I minded being one of the 25 entities who’d receive this law-bomb on deposit. I was only too glad to accept — on the condition that Carl write us a guest editorial explaining what this was all about. He was true to his word.”

  • Liberating America’s secret, for-pay laws, By Carl Malamud, boingboing (Mar 19, 2012).

    Boing Boing Official Guest Memorandum of Law
    To: 	The Standards People
    Cc: 	The Rest of Us People
    From: 	Carl Malamud, Public.Resource.Org
    In Re: 	Our Right to Replicate the Law Without a License