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Court Rules That Laws Can Be Copyrighted

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.

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]

CRS on Private Laws

If you provide public service for legal or government information, you have probably come across “private laws” and may have wondered what they are. These are not secret laws (which are laws that the public cannot even see!). These are private laws, which means that they usually deal with immigration issues or claims against the government. You might find this CRS report of interest:

Hat tip to Steven Aftergood!