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Don't Share That Law! It's Copyrighted

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the there-would-be-these-rules-that-everyone-knows dept.

Government 481

Nathan Halverson writes "California claims copyright to its laws, and warns people not to share them. And that's not sitting right with Internet gadfly, and open-access hero, Carl Malamud. He has spent the last couple months scanning tens of thousands of pages containing city, county and state laws — think building codes, banking laws, etc. Malamud wants California to sue him, which is almost a given if the state wants to continue claiming copyright. He thinks a federal court will rule in his favor: It is illegal to copyright the law since people are required to know it. Malamud helped force the SEC to put corporate filings online in 1994, and did the same with the patent office. He got the Smithsonian to loosen its claim of copyright, CSPAN to stop forbidding people from sharing its videos, and most recently Oregon to quit claiming copyright on state laws." Malamud's talk at Google ("All the Government's Information") is also well worth watching.

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California Strikes Again (5, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862771)

Is this a joke? Laws are not "Science" or "useful Arts" as defined in the Constitution. They are practical communications between the government and its people. Since the government is both serves its people and is funded by its people, it cannot hold a copyright. This has been recognized at the Federal level for... oh... ever. ( 105. Subject matter of copyright: United States Government works [cornell.edu] )

I'm all for state powers, but this is simply rediculous. Even if we assume a valid legal theory exists that allows states to hold copyrights over works created by public officers, laws themselves are still not considered works of art or science any more than a memo reminding my wife to get milk is considered copyrightable.

Of course, being a lawyer and/or lawmaker is a skilled trade. So the argument could be made that the text is the result of those skills. I still don't think it can be copyrighted, but let's say a judge disagrees with me. Well then, what of fair use? The people must have access to laws in order to obey them. Thus laws must be communicated in the open to all citizens under the fair use doctrine.

Under the 4 point balance test, the nature of the works (i.e. laws) is factual and thus not allowed copyright protection. (see: Time Inc. v. Bernard Geis Associates) The purpose of reproducing the laws is that it is information required by the public. The amount copied is irrelevant in this case, as the entirity of the law is required information for every citizen. Last but not least, the value of the law should only be in its improvement upon society, not a dollar value placed upon its reproduction. Coming back to the point the citizens PAID to have those laws created, it only follows that they should not be further charged to obtain copies of them.

Re:California Strikes Again (5, Insightful)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862847)

If he loses, it will be interesting to use "ignorance of the law" as a defense.

"I'm sorry, your honor, I didn't have enough money to know what laws I broke.

Re:California Strikes Again (5, Funny)

ZeroFactorial (1025676) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863545)

We should copyright the copyright laws with billion dollar royalties for usage.

You could violate any copyrights you want, and when they try to cite the copyright laws, BAM!

Re:California Strikes Again (5, Funny)

d34thm0nk3y (653414) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862855)

Maybe if we all pirate these laws it will reduce the financial incentive of these "artists" to create new works.

Re:California Strikes Again (4, Insightful)

WgT2 (591074) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863141)

Oh, man. Don't get our hopes up!

Re:California Strikes Again (2, Funny)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863191)

The joke's on them! I trademarked the name "California" back in 1849. They have been using it without my permission ever since. My settlement is going to be HUGE!

Marshall and Sutter [wikipedia.org] called me a fool back then. They told me the real money was in digging for gold. Who's laughing now!

Re:California Strikes Again (1)

mini me (132455) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863451)

You have to enforce trademarks, else you lose them. I'm afraid it's too late for you.

Re:California Strikes Again (3, Funny)

HardCase (14757) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863547)

Uh oh, looks like Spain might have beat you to the punch... [wikipedia.org]

Nothing for it but to head to court!

Re:California Strikes Again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24863407)

How ironic would it be to be slapped with increased penalties for copyright infringement by sharing the newly-created law increasing penalties?

To properly put the ridiculousness of such a charge, the defense should be something along the lines of not being aware of the existence of the law in question.

Re:California Strikes Again (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862891)

Excuse my use of "rediculous" when it should have been "ridiculous". I can't quite seem to purge that mistake from me' brain.

We understand (5, Funny)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862979)

Webster copyrighted "ridiculous" and you didn't have the money to pay for a license, so you created your own word.

The purpose of copyright is to encourage creativity. See, it works!

Re:California Strikes Again (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863405)

Start using a modern browser instead of one from the Second Millennium. Third Millennium browsers have built in spelling checkers and would have caught that for you.

Re:California Strikes Again (2, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863541)

My browser does catch such mistakes. (Though has anyone noticed that Chrome lacks the ability to suggest correct spellings? Drives me batty.) The problem is that I cannot use the browser before the story is live. So I tend to type up my posts in Notepad. Notepad kind of sucks when it comes to spell checking. ;-)

Re:California Strikes Again (5, Insightful)

Rob Kaper (5960) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862899)

Is this a joke?

Yes, parts of government increasingly look like a joke and not serious business, let alone representation of its citizens (and not: subjects).

But you basically already answered that by elaborating on the common sense you'd expect to be applied to matters like that, but didn't find.

Re:California Strikes Again (0, Troll)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863051)

America's been a parody of its former self ever since Bill Clinton was caught having his dick sucked. It's only been downhill from there, since GW took office.

Re:California Strikes Again (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24863131)

yes, ever since america replaced bill (getting his dick sucked) with George (who's sticking his dick up the ass of america), we've all been getting F*ed.

Oh, it's been longer than that (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24863155)

Hoover?
McCarthy?
Nixon?

All that is new is that ALL the politicians don't give a shit about the proles any more. They don't care about you in the least.

Re:California Strikes Again (1)

Rob Kaper (5960) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863193)

Perhaps, but not a strong argument because in this case it actually seems like the federal government has retained more sense than state government.

Re:California Strikes Again (5, Interesting)

silentbozo (542534) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862905)

Part of the problem is that lobbyists for various trade groups have gotten California to adopt existing books of industry standards as state code. The law basically incorporates whatever is the latest industry standard book... which requires money to get. Same deal with things like medical terminology. There's a "standards group" which makes money off of licensing the billing codes and selling books of what the current billing codes are.

Re:California Strikes Again (1)

jgarra23 (1109651) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862915)

I'm all for state powers

That's a scary thought. You could end up with unreadable copyrighted laws or something!

Re:California Strikes Again (1)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863157)

When we can't learn about the copyright laws because they aren't distributable ... then when will they expect us to comply?

Re:California Strikes Again (1)

jgarra23 (1109651) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863205)

I believe this is one of the steps towards a police state? Ever seen Brazil? The laws in that movie are not only incomprehensible, they're unreadable.

Re:California Strikes Again (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863461)

... then when will they expect us to comply?

They don't. They expect you to get arrested, then go pick fruit, or break rocks for 20 cents an hour, because they ran off all the immigrants. Prohibition is big business.

Re:California Strikes Again (4, Insightful)

2nd Post! (213333) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862955)

The memo to get milk is MORE copyrightable than the laws.

The only way a law could be copyrighted is if they were works of art (poems or some such) and assigned to an individual or corporation (IE, not a government). And in that case if it belongs to an individual, how could it be a state law?

Re:California Strikes Again (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24863495)

You owe me for modding you insightful. I've just noticed chrome has a built-in dictionary. Cool! Sorry for the offtopic but I'm too drunk to give a shit :)

Re:California Strikes Again (3, Insightful)

philspear (1142299) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862959)

Having little understanding of my state's governance, I would hazard a guess that this isn't something that's been thought out by anyone of a very high rank. This seems more like a mid-level management decision, or rather the equivalent of that in government. In other words, this seems like bureaucracy doing it's thing, not using common sense as that generally gets you in trouble. It's not suprising to me anyway that a "mid-level" bureaucrat would copyright the laws without having a reason to do so. Why not, it's taxpayer money.

That could be naive: I'm suggesting it's not california government out to trip you up because you have to follow laws you can't know about so much as california government not being able to put their shoes on before they tie them. I admit I'm prone to believe in government incompetence before government conspiracy.

Re:California Strikes Again (3, Insightful)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863117)

I would hazard a guess that this isn't something that's been thought out by anyone of a very high rank...

Two thoughts occur to me. First, most laws are of that caliber. It's well known that at the Federal level, legislators haven't, and in many cases, would not be capable (due to the sheer volume of many bills), read the laws they are voting on.

The second thought is that even if it were thought out by someone of high rank, it would probably wouldn't help.

Re:California Strikes Again (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863189)

The second thought is that even if it were thought out by someone of high rank, it would probably wouldn't help.

Yes, but it gives the story a bit of a different spin, and helps explain why this is the case. Theoretically of course. I find it somewhat less frustrating than the alternative hypotheses I could come up with.

Re:California Strikes Again (1)

WgT2 (591074) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863279)

...not using common sense...

Thy sure didn't use common sense because common sense would have told them to look up what it means to copyright something before putting this into a bill.

Did the Governator sign this into law?

Re:California Strikes Again (1)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863533)

I'd hazard to guess that California's stance on this issue far predates the Governator's time in office.

Re:California Strikes Again (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24862967)

The trick they try to do is contract state work out to private companies and then allow those companies to have the copyrights.

This is informative: Veeck vs. Southern Bldg Code [uscourts.gov] (case no. 99-40632-cv2):

The issue in this en banc case is the extent to which a
private organization may assert copyright protection for its model
codes, after the models have been adopted by a legislative body and
become âoethe lawâ. Specifically, may a code-writing organization
prevent a website operator from posting the text of a model code
where the code is identified simply as the building code of a city
that enacted the model code as law?

Re:California Strikes Again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24863009)

Laws are not ... "useful Arts"

Indeed.

Re:California Strikes Again (4, Insightful)

WgT2 (591074) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863115)

Exactly. How do the creators of this portion of the law think their laws are not public domain? You know, 'government for the people by the people'; therefore any law created by the government is for and by the people and thus public domain.

Playing With Fire (5, Funny)

PawNtheSandman (1238854) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862813)

I wouldn't keep prodding Arnold like that.

The Governator (3, Funny)

Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862999)

Yep, I can just hear him saying "don't prod me!"

Heh.

Re:Playing With Fire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24863103)

GET DOWN!

Not illegal (3, Interesting)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862829)

> It is illegal to copyright the law since people are required to know it.

Copyrights on laws may be unenforceable but they are not illegal.

Re:Not illegal (4, Interesting)

DannyO152 (544940) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863057)

I'd ask this question: who owns the copyrights? I'd say it's the taxpayers .

Re:Not illegal (1)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863091)

Government is all about separating you from your money, your rights, your property, or anything else people with a pension for being bossy dream up. That is its natural function.
Do you recall a show called "My sister Sam?" perfect illustration of how safe any information controlled by government becomes.

If Government passes a law, "owns" the law, and control distribution of the law, then you become guilty of a law you know not of, have no way of becoming aware of, nor any way to even have your attorney quote it in your defense without first paying the state for "fair use".
George Orwell was a optimist...

Re:Not illegal (3, Insightful)

neoform (551705) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863207)

If a law is unenforceable, how can it be a law?

It's illegal to commit suicide, but, what's the punishment and how can you carry it out? Therefore, you can infer that it is not actually illegal. (the attempt might be on the other hand)

Re:Not illegal (5, Funny)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863567)

Copyrights on laws may be unenforceable but they are not illegal.

I sure am glad you popped up to split that hair. Without comments like this, where would we be?

Baffling (4, Interesting)

geekmansworld (950281) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862839)

This view by certain US states that laws are copyrighted material is plexing to me. The laws are written by people, on materials, that are funded by the taxpayer. Therefore, laws are PUBLIC property.

And what point does copyrighting ones' laws serve? Is it about publication rights? If ignorance of the law is no excuse, then why is access not free to all.

Baffling.

Re:Baffling (1)

haystor (102186) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863043)

It's a little less baffling when you look at something like building codes.

Basically the law will be written something like: the incline of handicap ramps will conform to the standard of .

That is, the law as passed doesn't contain the requirements you will have to follow to stay legal.

They're passing references, not passing by value.

Re:Baffling (4, Informative)

autocracy (192714) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863045)

The biggest issue comes down to things like building codes in small towns. They buy a model code from some company. See Veeck v. Southern Building Code Congress International, Inc. [cornell.edu]

Re:Baffling (1)

interiot (50685) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863211)

So instead of outsourcing government work to a private company... now they can just copy laws from the next town over. Everybody wins.

Re:Baffling (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863435)

... except the private company.

Which just happens to be owned by the building code commission chairs' brother-in-law.

Re:Baffling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24863085)

This view by certain US states that laws are copyrighted material is plexing to me.

Perplex? Multiplex? Cineplex? Solar Plexus? You're gonna need an actual word there.

Re:Baffling (1, Informative)

geekmansworld (950281) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863271)

"Gonna" is not an actual word.

Re:Baffling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24863501)

"Gonna" is not an actual word.

Touche. Well met, Sir Knight. ;-)

Re:Baffling (1)

GuyverDH (232921) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863107)

The problem is that in several states, they hire companies to *word* them in legal-sleeze terms, so that the general public has to hire lawyers to interpret them.

The company, not wanting it's work stolen by competitors, copyright them before handing them over to the state. I think Texas is like this, using a vendor to write their laws for them.

Re:Baffling (5, Interesting)

cvd6262 (180823) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863457)

This happens all the time. The judiciary doesn't want to deal with people - they want to deal with lawyers.... who get paid by the people.

I once had to fight a ticket in a small town traffic court. I requested a deposition via registered mail, and in my state, if the deposition isn't sent within 30 days the ticket becomes defective. It had been almost 2 months, and I still didn't have it.

As my court date approached, I took the issue up with the town clerk (who only worked a few hours, four days a week). She had never heard that they needed to send out the depositions before the court date (kind of hard to defend oneself without knowing the officer's account), but said she would take it up with the judge. In the meantime, I sent the court, again by registered mail, a notarized motion to dismiss on the grounds that the ticket was defective.

After another week of trying, the secretary finally caved and gave me the judge's work number (he owned the gas station in the town). He was unclear on the particulars of depositions, so he pushed my court date back and then he added:

"You know, you're not really following the proper procedures."

"OK. What are the proper procedures?"

"I can't tell you."

So, it comes as no surprise that government wants to hide laws from the people.

Okay, time to stop this meme. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24862873)

It's not "none shall ignore the law", it's "none shall ignore criminal law". That is one of the laws in the list of criminal laws. Look it up.

That's right, amazingly enough nobody is expected to know their municipal by-laws by heart... [rolls eyes]

Re:Okay, time to stop this meme. (2, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863263)

That's right, amazingly enough nobody is expected to know their municipal [laws] by heart...

Oh? Really? So you can claim ignorance of municipal and civil laws?

Try explaining that to the next cop who's about to write you a ticket for a civil infraction.

"Oh, but officer, I didn't know that you had to obey the speed limit! I thought that was just a guideline!

Or how about to the impound yard after you've parked your rotting hulk of a car on the street for more than 10 days without moving it. Yep, that's a municipal law.

 

They can't possibly charge him... (1)

jnaujok (804613) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862895)

Because if they tell him he's broken the copyright law, then they are, ipso facto, revealing the copyright law, which invalidates their copyright since they are distributing the copyrighted material.

If charged, he can immediately get the entire idea of the law being copyrighted thrown out on that basis.

Sheesh, what a bunch of whack-jobs they've got running the Kal-ee-forn-ee-uh government. I think Ah-nuld got hit in the head a few too many times while making those movies.

Re:They can't possibly charge him... (3, Funny)

Malevolyn (776946) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863511)

Kal-ee-forn-ee-uh

I think you mean GAL-ee-forn-ee-uh.

The 5th Circuit in Veeck (5, Informative)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862923)

In Veeck v. Southern Building Code Congress International [google.com] , the 5th Circuit held that laws are not copyrightable.

I didn't read the opinion but I'm pretty sure they had precedent.

Re:The 5th Circuit in Veeck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24863325)

You need to look at how they split the hairs. The Building Code itself is written and copyrighted by a private organization. It is just a book describing building conditions and what that association thinks is the correct way to deal with them. THEN, the local government writes a LAW that says "do it that way" in reference to a given edition of the book. So now the book in effect has the force of law, without actually having been written by lawmakers. They could do the same with the Betty Crocker Cookbook.

I'm told other laws get made like this too, but in the case of Building codes they are at least open and honest about it.

Re:The 5th Circuit in Veeck (3, Informative)

Speare (84249) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863335)

The 5th Circuit does not include California. California is part of the 9th Circuit. If the two courts disagree on a particular substantially similar issue, then it can be sent to the Supreme Court of the United States to be decided finally. This is the whole point of the Circuit Courts.

What bothers ME is this line from the summary above:

Malamud wants California to sue him, which is almost a given if the state wants to continue claiming copyright.

This sounds like the usual misunderstanding. Copyright, unlike Trademark, remains in force even if not actively defended. The holder of the copyright could lay low forever, and only sue those who they want to sue. If the submitter did indeed think that the copyright holder might lose their exclusive rights due to inaction, I have to ask, WHY IS THIS SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND? Copyright, Patent, Trademark, Secret. They all have very different legal semantics.

Throwback to the '80s or '90s? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863503)

There was a time in the '80s or '90s when rightsholders were suing anyone and everyone who wanted to perform their play or use their fictional characters, even hobbyists. They did it not for the money but because they were afraid that if they didn't their works would fall into the public domain.

I think this was prompted by some court decision, and the change away from that behavior was prompted by a higher court decision that said "it's okay to not pester the little guys."

My memory of this is fuzzy though. Maybe someone else can fill in the blanks.

Profit (2, Funny)

ZeroFactorial (1025676) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862927)

1) Copyright state laws for states that haven't copyrighted their own laws yet.
2) Copyright California Bills before they're passed into law (since they're only copyrighting their LAWS.
2) Sue.
4) Profit!


No ??? step?!? Something is seriously wrong here!
That something must be that copyrighting laws is the stupidest idea that's ever been conceived.

Re:Profit (3, Funny)

ZeroFactorial (1025676) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862953)

That something is also that there is no step 3...

Re:Profit (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863021)

Something is seriously wrong here!

Yeah, something is wrong here: CowboyNeal has the copyright on ???.

Re:Profit (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863329)

Nope. You can't copyright something you didn't create. I'd reproduce the necessary sections of law, but they're probably copyrighted or something.

Thank you, Nathan Halverson. (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862935)

Thank you Nathan Halverson, for your unwillingness to accept government corruption. I wish we had more people like you.

I say let them copyright it (4, Insightful)

Jailbrekr (73837) | more than 6 years ago | (#24862941)

That would mean that "ignorance of the law" IS a valid excuse.

Re:I say let them copyright it (5, Insightful)

Indagator (1266958) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863169)

That would mean that "ignorance of the law" IS a valid excuse.

Don't be ridiculous; it means you'll have to pay an additional licensing fee to read the citation against you.

Re:I say let them copyright it (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863231)

That would mean that "ignorance of the law" IS a valid excuse.

No, it's just an indication of which way we're going.

You've broken a law we can't tell you about, but you're guilty anyway. You're not allowed to tell someone else we've arrested you for the law, since the law precludes that. We can't give your lawyer a description of the law or the charges against you because the law precludes that.

Sadly, I think that's the PATRIOT act. :(

Cheers

Re:I say let them copyright it (5, Insightful)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863409)

No, it's just an indication of which way we're going.

You've broken a law we can't tell you about, but you're guilty anyway. You're not allowed to tell someone else we've arrested you for the law, since the law precludes that. We can't give your lawyer a description of the law or the charges against you because the law precludes that.

Sadly, I think that's the PATRIOT act. :(

Cheers

It's not the PATRIOT act because the PATRIOT act is published. But there is proof of such law in Gilmore v. Gonzales. [wikipedia.org]

I'm generally against more laws, but if there ever was a constitutional amendment I could get behind, it's that all laws should be available to the public without charge.

Re:I say let them copyright it (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863319)

Out of curiosity, can anyone point me to a good history of when this became the standard? You can of course think of many instances in which ignorance of the law is in reality (though not of course legally) a good excuse, especially in technical issues or laws that run counter to common sense.

The wiki page on Ignorantia juris non excusat isn't particularly informative, I guess I'm looking for how that was established in american courts.

Re:I say let them copyright it (4, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863497)

Out of curiosity, can anyone point me to a good history of when this became the standard?

Go back to Hammurabi [wikipedia.org] . As a king of Babylon, he felt that ignorance of the law was not an excuse for not following it. Thus he constructed massive stone tablets in the center of his cities that displayed the law for all to see, so that no one could argue that they were ignorant of the law. This was the basis for the doctrine of "ignorance of the law is not a defense."

It didn't take long for the complexity of laws to outstrip the ability of governments to easily publish them in public. Thus Hammurabi's idea of a public display was replaced by the doctrine of public access to laws. Citizens in most countries are expected to keep informed of the latest laws by requesting copies from their government. Traditionally, the governments provided these laws at no charge, or merely for the cost of publication.

Can you copyright a copyright law? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24862943)

Can you copyright a copyright law?

Re:Can you copyright a copyright law? (2, Funny)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863063)

Can you copyright a copyright law?

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE! You've opened a universe paradox! WE'RE GONNA DIEEeeeeeeeeee

Re:Can you copyright a copyright law? (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863447)

Can you copyright a copyright law?

Only if the law is defined within a (letrec ...) expression.

No, only I can (1)

tobiah (308208) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863471)

Because I hold the copyright on the copyrighting of copyright laws.

Lock him up! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24862995)

Carl Malamud is aiding the terrists! If the laws are freely available to be known by the public, the terrists will find out and obey them to avoid being caught!

Re:Lock him up! (0, Troll)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863371)

<sarcasm type="dripping">Yeah, because terrorists are actually concerned with obeying the law.</sarcasm>

In other news... (1)

Negrin (1100257) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863003)

...every act of Calfornia legislation was found to consist entirely of articles numbered 22.

Wasting his time? (1, Interesting)

qoncept (599709) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863037)

What is the point? Coaxing the state government in to suing him will just cost the tax payers extra money and make this guy look like a douchebag with no life. Why not just keep an eye out for any case where the government sues someone else for "violating the copyright" and then jump in that case? And if it never happens, it apparently doesn't need to, because it is affecting no one.

Re:Wasting his time? (1)

EnergyScholar (801915) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863177)

The idea is to either force them to sue (knowing they will lose), which will invalidate the stupid 'copyright' claim, or else invalidate the stupid 'copyright' claim because they don't try to protect it.

Re:Wasting his time? (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863443)

or else invalidate the stupid 'copyright' claim because they don't try to protect it.

That doesn't apply to copyright. You're thinking of trademark.

The thing that will prod them into suing him is loss of revenue from sale of copies of the laws in question, like building codes and whatnot.

Re:Wasting his time? (4, Insightful)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863311)

A douchebag for "civil disobedience" and standing up against a ridiculous law? I guess Rosa Parks (and all the others that did similar, before and after) was a douchebag who should have not coaxed the state into throwing her into prison wasting taxpayer money...?

He's doing a very important thing because by challenging the law he's effectively testing it and him winning means other people won't be intimidated by this bullshit--you say he should avoid breaking this obviously bogus, incredibly idiotic law, but then, you're just saying that people should bend over backwards to accommodate the state's stupidity. Thus the only time the law would be tested would be, ironically, in a case of ignorance of the law, in a case where the law is copyrighted. Heh!

Re:Wasting his time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24863317)

because this way someone prepared for the attack absorbs it and creates the right precedent, rather than someone unprepared rolling over and creating the wrong precedent. In a sane system he would be able to sue them directly, rather than expose himself to potential liability then hope it holds up as a defence.

Re:Wasting his time? (1)

interiot (50685) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863365)

Most people don't have the money to risk being sued, which means that it does affect them somewhat even if previously unenforced. After all, there's nothing preventing someone new from coming in and suddenly deciding to enforce them [law.com] .

Re:Wasting his time? (2, Insightful)

genner (694963) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863419)

His goal is to get Californaias laws placed online which will never happen as long as it's illegal to be viewable to everyone for free. Such a project would cost quite a bit, and no one is going to risk putting in the effort if there's risk of it being shutdown.

Re:Wasting his time? (3, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863515)

Coaxing the state government in to suing him will just cost the tax payers extra money

Then maybe, just maybe, California should drop its claim of copyright, instead of suing him to hang on to their useless claim. What an amazing idea! He's not the "douchebag" here.

because it is affecting no one.

And you know this because everyone who it could possibly be affecting would be rich enough and willing to take the time to fight it in court?

Court battles aside, on the face of it, you're wrong. Everyone who has ever had to pay an architect (who in turn has to pay for the current building codes and therefore passes that charge on) has been affected, and that's just the start. Everyone who has hired a lawyer in California has paid to cover that lawyer's access to the law, and everyone who has ever paid for the law is directly affected.

Awsome (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863079)

I'm going to start copyrighting laws and charging state governments to enforce them. What should I charge for a royalty? 14 per usage?

If I'm fast enough I should be able to copyright bills before they have a chance to actually pass them.

spelling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24863097)

"He got the Smithsonian to loosen its claim of copyright, CSPAN to stop forbidding people from sharing its videos, and most recently Oregon to *quite* claiming copyright on state laws." /sigh

*quit*

Franz Kafka, anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24863121)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Trial [wikipedia.org]

Sometimes I feel that the world is a bit strange. Once again, reality imitates art. Sickening.

Legal Publishers. (5, Interesting)

Irvu (248207) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863145)

Until quite recently many states (Pennsylvania being the last) did not post their laws online at all or make them available to the public for free. In many cases the only way to get access to the actual laws was to purchase a copy from the state's legal publisher or look them up in a legal library, (which exists on ever street corner). This is as true for statutes of the type that Malamud is focusing on as caselaw which is an essential facet of law in the U.S. and other Common Law countries.

Efforts to change this have routinely been fought by legal publishers who hold lucrative monopolies on the publication of laws and their dissemination. There also exists a generational gap in many cases with a generation accustomed to having the law on paper not really understanding why one would look online.

So ironically what Malamud is doing is not "fighting for the norm" of freely accessible laws but fighting for something new. While many people are fond of the cant "ignorance of the law is no excuse", for most of recent U.S. history laws have been hidden.

Good luck to him.

Re:Legal Publishers. (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863343)

"Ignorance of the law is no excuse"... to go on a tangent, it's pretty funny it's no excuse given that these days anything could be illegal or restricted and there's simply no way to find out. Pass enough laws and everyone's a criminal.

Can't be done (2, Informative)

WingedEarth (958581) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863159)

Copyrights do not protect statutory law, because the text and every word are purely functional. Laws are not written as original expression, they're written purely functionally, to serve a practical purpose. That's under federal copyright law. California could pass its own copyright law that doesn't have such limitations, but then the law would be violating 1st Amendment rights. Basically, all of copyright law is an exception to the 1st Amendment, which is only allowed according to the Constitutional authority that Congress has to pass copyright laws. Maybe the California State government isn't bound to the 1st Amendment (people think it is, because of the 14th Amendment), but that doesn't matter, because California's own constitution declares that, "A law may not restrain or abridge liberty of speech or press."

Good gawd... (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863229)

Claiming copyright on LAWS? Good gawd. We do live in an era of insanity...

Streisand Effect in 3...2...1... (2, Funny)

Scarletdown (886459) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863299)

So then, how long before people start posting assorted CA laws all over the Internet? I'd start by posting the one about a $500 fine for detonating a nuke inside the Chico, CA city limits. But I can't verify whether or not that is a real law or an urban legend.

So Officer What Did I Do? (4, Interesting)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863303)

I am sorry Sir I cannot tell you that would put me in violation of copyright. However, I can sell you a copy of the Traffic Act and then point out the relivent section. So Sir will that be cash or charge?

Format of the Law (1)

MorderVonAllem (931645) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863323)

I thought the copyright was on the layout of the law and the specific id's in the law books and not the actual law. Wasn't this recently decided on too? (in another state or city)

In a certain way this makes sense... (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863369)

Because this way California can control and forbid derivative works of the copyrighted laws. What if some smug lawyer wants to force you into obeying his threatening letter where he does not verbatim quote the law, but creates a derivative work by plagiarizing it (and thus subtly change its meaning)?

California could still have a copyright on all laws and distribute them with a licence stating that all verbatim copies are allowed, but for all derivative works it requires them to be checked by some "officer of the law" for possible errors. In a certain way it would be a "CLL", a "California Law License", which permits more than normal Copyright Law would, and thus forcing the licensees to obey the "only a complete and verbatim quote" rule.

Goodbye Lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24863393)

Does this mean all lawyers are guilty of copyright infringement?

HA HA Too Bad California (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863489)

Government entities can't claim copyright in the US. They can only hire a third party contractor and allow the contractor to hold the copyright.

Feel free to ignore these claims, they they cannot be applied to anyone in any court. And I believe that is essentially Carl Malamud's position.

I'm tempted to post all the CA building codes, etc on my website. I am pretty certain I don't even need a lawyer. This is pretty cut and dry.

Commerical (1)

hansoloaf (668609) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863527)

so how would they advertise their laws - maybe they can bring back the California Raisins singing trio

ignorance IS a defense? (1)

nathan.fulton (1160807) | more than 6 years ago | (#24863553)

Can you claim that ignorance is a defense if the law is copyrighted because you literally don't have open access to it? Making laws inaccessible to the public is a slippery slope... IANAL, could someone tell me why this wouldn't stand?
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