Sunday, June 22, 2008

 

A step in the right direction

You may have seen Pete Forsyth's blog post about the Oregon Revised Statutes being proprietary information. In brief, even if you are a tax payer in Oregon you can't put a copy of the laws you pay for on the Internet -- and especially not if don't pay Oregon taxes. Now for the rest of the story: Pete and a few folks went down last Thursday to make a pitch to the Legislative Counsel Committee to change their minds on this, and I'm glad to write that the committee decided unanimously not to enforce any copyright claims.

I could say this is important by making a comparison to Roman history. One of the many conflicts between the classes was over the fact that the laws at the time were not written down, and while the upper classes possessed this oral knowledge, the lower classes did not and for that reason wanted the laws put in written form, so that personal security and happiness did not depend on the whims of the powerful. But, again, there is more to the story than reaching to that ideal -- some of which Pete provides in his blog. People have been sued for putting copies of the laws of their state online: one case happened a few years back when a fellow put the building code for his state online -- but was sued by a third party who happened to own the copyright to the model legislation that his state's laws were taken from. (I think that is the case referred to here.) And copies of building codes are pricey, because selling copies is one way these groups are able to pay their bills -- despite the fact the pricetag limits access to important information.

Geoff

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