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Liberating the Laws You Must Pay To Read

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the yes-apparently-this-needs-to-be-a-thing dept.

United States 223

Writing for Boing Boing, Carl Malamud describes the campaign he's been waging to let U.S. citizens read the public safety standards that have become part of federal law — without needing to pay for the privilege. "These public safety standards govern and protect a wide range of activity, from how bicycle helmets are constructed to how to test for lead in water to the safety characteristics of hearing aids and protective footwear." Despite a U.S. Appeals Court ruling which said 'the law' should be in the public domain, many safety codes are still privately produced and then distributed for a fee, to recoup development costs. "Public.Resource.Org has a mission of making the law available to all citizens, and these technical standards are a big black hole in the legal universe. We've taken a gamble and spent $7,414.26 to buy 73 of these technical public safety standards that are incorporated into the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations." Malamud and his Public.Resource.Org foundation are trying — very cautiously — to make these laws more broadly available. "...even though we strongly believe that the documents are not entitled to copyright protection, and moreover that our limited print run is in any case definitely fair use, if a judge were to decide that what we did was breaking the law, 25 copies of 73 standards works out to $273,750,000 in potential liability. While whales may make bigger bets, we draw the line at $273 million."

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223 comments

Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excuse. (5, Insightful)

sehlat (180760) | about 2 years ago | (#39417939)

So why doesn't anybody ask about "inability to afford a copy of the law" as an excuse.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (5, Insightful)

GmExtremacy (2579091) | about 2 years ago | (#39418019)

Ignorance of the law becomes quite common when you have a ridiculous amount of inane laws.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (1, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | about 2 years ago | (#39418151)

Not only that - if the law isn't so fucking convoluted and obtuse and hidden away, how the hell are the lawyer vampire class ever going to justify being a drain on society by requiring you to consult a lawyer before doing anything?

Regulatory capture was invented by the lawyer class. That's why the first thing a sane society would do is outlaw lawyers.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (5, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 years ago | (#39418557)

Not only that - if the law isn't so fucking convoluted and obtuse and hidden away...

That's what you get when you allow private industry and corporatist groups like ALEC to write the laws.

The reason we have laws that are "fucking convoluted and obtuse and hidden away" is because there's somebody who is profiting from those laws being that way. There is no other reason.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (4, Funny)

mhajicek (1582795) | about 2 years ago | (#39418969)

I once heard a tax lawyer admit (in person) that he had lobbied for more complicated tax laws to increase the number of people hiring tax lawyers.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (3, Interesting)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#39419003)

The regular laws are bad enough. I have arguments all the time over traffic laws. Is it or isn't it illegal to "tailgate"? Depends on where you are and the situation. The law doesn't help. And then, there are the laws enumerating "regulations" to have force of law when the regulations are public by definition (tax code, FAA, FCC, etc.). They aren't "law" but are "public regulations with the force of law". But the killer, what they are combating here are the private, copyrighted regulations coded as law. There are piles of laws saying "NEC is law" when the NEC is a privately held item that is not public. The equivelent is if the IRS suddenly said "we aren't going to tell you the changes in tax rules unless you pay us $1,000,000,000 (pinky in mouth)." They lobby for the NEC to be adopted as law in whole, without exception or detail as to the effect of such a rule, then refuse to provide the NEC to the public for whom it is law. Many other building regulations are the same. It helps their bottom line when nobody knows the code and must hire trained professionals to move a light switch (else lose the house with no insurance if a problem happens, or, more likely, an inspector blocks a sale later).

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (1, Insightful)

NevarMore (248971) | about 2 years ago | (#39419253)

Not only that - if the law isn't so fucking convoluted and obtuse and hidden away...

That's what you get when you allow private industry and corporatist groups like ALEC to write the laws.

The reason we have laws that are "fucking convoluted and obtuse and hidden away" is because there's somebody who is profiting from those laws being that way. There is no other reason.

You get corporations with such an interest in the law because the law started having such a heavy hand in how you do business. If you can't open a simple food stand without getting 5 permits and inspections from 3 agencies you can bet that the entire industry is going to start seeing that as a cost of doing business and start using their lobbying power to either reduce that cost or make that cost profitable.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (2)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 2 years ago | (#39419197)

Not only that - if the law isn't so fucking convoluted and obtuse and hidden away, how the hell are the lawyer vampire class ever going to justify being a drain on society by requiring you to consult a lawyer before doing anything?

The hidden "laws" (which is a bad description, what is really privately-copyrighted are standards which are referenced in regulations authorized under law) don't benefit) don't benefit lawyers particularly, who they benefit are the industry groups that make the standards and the firms that are members.

Regulatory capture was invented by the lawyer class.

No, it wasn't. Delegating the regulation of an industry to established players in that industry has a long history independent of the "lawyer class".

That's why the first thing a sane society would do is outlaw lawyers.

Outlawing lawyers will make the law better in the same way that outlawing computer programmers will make computer programs better.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (2)

Bigby (659157) | about 2 years ago | (#39418185)

They don't have to be inane. Simply a ridiculous amount of laws leads to forced ignorance.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (4, Insightful)

marcello_dl (667940) | about 2 years ago | (#39418689)

And corruption. Let a system grow complex enough, and the little guys won't be able to accomplish anything, because they won't have the money, the cronies, or the will to compromise, to make the rusty wheels of the broken system turn. It happened in IT with the introduction of *silly* patents (I have nothing against patenting things that a couple random programmers can't replicate in a weekend).

Like, say, the byzantine empire, such systems usually imploded, people stop giving a damn about defending it. But now we have technology and such a broken system can go on for eternity because computers and robots don't get demotivated. We may fear computers that get too intelligent, but the problem is with the not-smart-enough ones.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (4, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#39418025)

Considering that the federal government willingly admits they have secret, non-publicized interpretations [aclu.org] for laws, I would say that ignorance of the law (or rather, how it is being enforced) is now the perfect excuse.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (-1, Offtopic)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 2 years ago | (#39418175)

Don't forget about the judges who apply foreign law. You're not just responsible for US laws, but also those from other countries or religious groups, depending on which judge you get.

And remember what Nancy Pelosi said about Obamacare. "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it." And very few of the congress critters bothered to read any of it before voting it in.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (0, Offtopic)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#39418263)

Another quote from a town meeting:

Congresswoman Pelosi, can you tell me where in the Constitution it gives Congress power to provide government hospitals?

"Are you serious? Are you serious???"

Yes I am serious. You pledged an oath to obey the Constitution and its amendments.

"(walks away)"

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (2)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | about 2 years ago | (#39418369)

VA hospitals are unconstitutional?

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 2 years ago | (#39418441)

I don't know that most people are actually concerned about VA hospitals, but you could easily justify it to a court as part of the whole "maintaining an army" thing, which is definitely something the Constitution provides for.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (2)

nschubach (922175) | about 2 years ago | (#39418839)

In that case, why not just draft everyone into the Army for Universal Healthcare?

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 2 years ago | (#39418469)

The VA is unconstitutional. The army should have been disbanded long ago.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (2)

pavon (30274) | about 2 years ago | (#39418857)

While funding for standing armies was supposed to be temporary, the Navy and government support of the militia was not. I think the VA would be easily justified under those grounds.

Getting more into grey areas, the constitution also grants the federal government power to collect taxes for the general welfare of the United States, and you could argue that most social programs, including civil government hospitals are just that.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#39419223)

Getting more into grey areas, the constitution also grants the federal government power to collect taxes for the general welfare of the United States, and you could argue that most social programs, including civil government hospitals are just that.

That is in there to give them the power to tax for the general good, not to tax for the general bad, nor does it (with a non-political reading) give the power to act in the general good, unless enumerated elsewhere.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418741)

Article 1 Section 8

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

--You are no longer allowed to say you have read then constitution.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (1)

TwilightXaos (860408) | about 2 years ago | (#39418919)

So now we only have freedom of speech regarding things that are true? So, for example, I am not alowed to say that I have a purple horn growing out of my head?

PS: I know that the constitution restircts congress from making laws against freedom of speech, and reserves that right to the people which you might be one of. That isn't the point though.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (2)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 2 years ago | (#39418449)

"(walks away)"

A serious response to a non serious complaint.

Shouldn't you be repairing your buggy whip?

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#39418743)

Last I checked the Constitution is still the Law, and if Congress members (or presidents) are ignoring the law then that IS a serious problem. In fact it's probably why over the last 11 years we have slowly-but-surely lost our various rights (SOPA, ACTA, NDAA jail without trial, and Patriot Act searches without warrants). Because the Constitutional Law is no longer being obeyed by the congress.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (1)

Qzukk (229616) | about 2 years ago | (#39419039)

Last I checked, laws have consequences for breaking them. Without consequences, the Constitution is merely the supreme suggestion of the United States.

Make violation of the Constitution a criminal act, then we'll talk.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418521)

maybe so, but this is entirely offtopic and derails the thread. marking it accordingly.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (4, Insightful)

larkost (79011) | about 2 years ago | (#39418711)

I support the congresswoman's response. That question deserved no response for a couple of reasons:

1) In the very pramble the national government is esablished to "promote the general Welfare". While that particular phase is very open to interpretaion, it is hard to see that a publically avalible hospital is not in the direction of "the general Welfare".

2) Section 8 of the Constitution once again allows specifically for taxation "to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States". One could agure that this only means the general welfare of the Unites States as a body and not the individual of it. But that seems contrary to the general spirit of the document, and would have to be decided by the US Supreme Court. Since they have specifically not said so, the overwhelming presumption must be that it is in keeping with the law.

3) Presumably the question was grounded out of something like "why should the government be allowed to complete (unfairly) with private business". But this is a common misconception about corporations and the Constitution. At the founding of the US Constitution corprations were only founded by express will of the goverment, and they were founded to a specific purpose (not profits). The profits were only a sweetener that was allowed to get the job done. Coporartions charters were often specific about the lifetime of the corporation and there were a list of clauses that would end the Coporation if it was found to not be living up to its charter. The modern idea of the corporation as a profit-driven mostly-imortal quasi-person did not start to take hold untill the mid-1800s. For reference I will direct people to the Mercantilism section of the Corporation article in Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporation#Mercantilism

So if you are a "fundamentalist" about the US Constitution you should expect that the govenement should be the one behind large institutions such as hospitals. It is just that many "Conservatives" have the dream of a golden age in their heads and have proven very willing to not let the truth get in their way.

I for one would like to see a move more in that direction, at least in the requring of Public Coporations to have a charter (I don't see the need for expiry), and to the practice exercise the death penalty on them when they violate it.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418731)

Where in the Constitution does it prevent Congress from doing it?

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (1)

swm (171547) | about 2 years ago | (#39418745)

I'd go with Article I, Section 8:

The Congress shall have Power To [...] provide for the [...] general Welfare of the United States

Department of Health (5, Informative)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#39418763)

can you tell me where in the Constitution it gives Congress power to provide government hospitals?

Does the "power to lay and collect taxes" and apply them to "provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States" (Article I, section 8) count? Hospitals (are supposed to) defend the public from disease and increase health, which is an aspect of welfare.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418535)

Don't forget about the judges who apply foreign law.

I won't forget. Talk radio hosts will keep repeating that lie until it becomes accepted as truth. Every example I've seen has been a misrepresentation of what the judges did or a failure to understand that common law started before the states united.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (1)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | about 2 years ago | (#39419031)

but you did forget. you forgot about international treaties (which supercede constitutional laws) such as NAFTA, that allow companies like BP Canada to ignore California's environmental regulations on MTBE. take your ginseng, biatch!

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about 2 years ago | (#39418271)

Considering that the federal government willingly admits they have secret, non-publicized interpretations [aclu.org] for laws, I would say that ignorance of the law (or rather, how it is being enforced) is now the perfect excuse.

But if you run afoul of those "laws", you still don't need to know them because you end up dead.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418063)

"Ignorance of the law" was no excuse because the king who said that had all the laws posted in common language in the city square so that everyone could know the laws.

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418137)

What was the literacy rate in his kingdom?

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418631)

because they're free at the library?

Re:Ignorance of the Law is supposed to be no excus (2)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#39418787)

Am I free to make copies of the law of the land at the library?

Wikileaks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418005)

Shouldn't have to do it this way, but whatever - scan it, send it to Wikileaks.

Re:Wikileaks (4, Interesting)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 years ago | (#39418187)

Agreed. They should have kept the purchase quiet and leaked it. Worst case scenario, imagine the hilarity of the US government scrambling to keep it's own laws secret.

Re:Wikileaks (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418879)

IMO they should be forcing the courts to do the right thing as a matter of precedent for future instances. We shouldn't have to rely on people to "leak" the contents of these proprietary standards every time they get passed into law.

Also it's not really the government trying to keep the wraps on these laws, its the companies that are drafting them that are. They would be the ones bringing enforcement actions against violators of their copyright. Congress doesn't really care about the issue (IMO anyway) they just use these standards as the basis for law because its easy and convenient to do so.

Re:Wikileaks (2)

dubbreak (623656) | about 2 years ago | (#39418995)

While I agree it would be a safer and easier way to distribute the documents it wouldn't have the same political statement. Being up on wikileaks makes them look like they shouldn't have been released, while this methods clearly makes the statement, " These documents should be public. We paid for them, they are out laws, they should be free (for citizens) to read."

New Age Math? (1)

gregarican (694358) | about 2 years ago | (#39418041)

spent $7,414.26 to buy 73 [...] 25 copies of 73 standards works out to $273,750,000

Am I the only one who doesn't get the math? Or does the judge exponentially impose penalties under copyright protection?

Re:New Age Math? (4, Interesting)

FSWKU (551325) | about 2 years ago | (#39418131)

spent $7,414.26 to buy 73 [...] 25 copies of 73 standards works out to $273,750,000

Am I the only one who doesn't get the math? Or does the judge exponentially impose penalties under copyright protection?

That's exactly what the copyright cartels try to do . 73 standards works x 25 copies each = 1,825 instances of infringement, working out to $150,000 per instance. Considering the MAFIAA likes to say they can claim up to $250,000 per infringement, that's (sadly) on the middle range of what they claim they can demand.

Re:New Age Math? (5, Funny)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 2 years ago | (#39418237)

The exact equation for copyright damages is value * num_copies * 3 * ha_ha_ur_a_criminal = more_money_than_you'll_ever_see_in_your_life

I'd point you to the statute, but you couldn't afford it.

Re:New Age Math? (1)

noh8rz3 (2593935) | about 2 years ago | (#39418431)

I'd point you to the statute, but you couldn't affort it.

FTFY

Re:New Age Math? (1)

johanwanderer (1078391) | about 2 years ago | (#39418747)

Re:New Age Math? (0)

noh8rz3 (2593935) | about 2 years ago | (#39419023)

mirriam-webster.com:

Definition of AFFORT

transitive verb

1

a : to manage to bear without serious detriment

b : to be able to bear the cost of

2

: to make available, give forth, or provide naturally or inevitably

— affortability noun

— affortable adjective

— affortably adverb

Re:New Age Math? (1)

noh8rz3 (2593935) | about 2 years ago | (#39418477)

is this really the crisis to end all crises? i deduce that on average a standard specification is $100. Who would care about the specifications for bicycle helmets? those that make helmets, perhaps? they can't spend $100? in terms of civil liberties, i'm not shedding a tear.

Paying for Things You've Already Paid For (1)

odie5533 (989896) | about 2 years ago | (#39418053)

It's sad that the U.S. public needs to pay for things they've already paid for with tax money: public.resource.org, Recap Firefox Extension, and scientific journal subscriptions (recent Elsevier boycott).

Re:Paying for Things You've Already Paid For (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about 2 years ago | (#39418387)

What makes you think these things have been paid for (in full) with taxes?

South Park did it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418069)

South Park did it!

South Park did it!

SOUTH PARK DID IT!!!

whales? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418077)

An idiom perhaps?

Incorporation by reference... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418113)

Incorporation by reference is one of the tools that private corporations use to get their will imposed through government regulation. It is a shady practice at best, and leads to all kinds of problems with unfunded mandates being exercised on the people, among other things.

Many standards must be licensed, generate quite a bit of revenue for the private companies that develop them.

It is true that many standards are costly to develop, but therein lies the problem - if we need them, we should be paying for them once and making them available to everyone.

This practice should be immediately outlawed, and all regulatory standards should be made open and free to citizens at no cost.

Here is a listing of all the standards incorporated by reference into the Federal Register:
http://standards.gov/sibr/query/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.main [standards.gov]

See:
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incorporation_by_reference [wikipedia.org]
- http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/cfr/ibr-locations.html [archives.gov]

Re:Incorporation by reference... (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | about 2 years ago | (#39419019)

Paying for them once? These are all living documents and you are paying for changes from the previous years.

Many of the engineering codes are useful only to businesses and not individuals. Should the ASME code that governs the design of pressure vessels in nuclear reactors be paid for with tax money? It seems to me that paying for them with usage fees is okay most of the time. The ones that have broad applicability (like the NEC) are very inexpensive (under $100 new, even cheaper used).

These have to be paid for either through taxation or user fees. A new tax is a very tough sell in the US, so I don't see it changing any time soon.

Just to clarify... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418117)

Industry standards are not "the law". A rule or law requiring that a piece of equipment be built to a specification identified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) doesn't make the ANSI standard the law. If I'm buying a piece of equipment, I don't need to know what the ANSI standard says; I only look to see that the maufacturer does and certifies that it meets that ANSI standard.

Back in the glory days of CRT monitors, many folks looked for monitors that met certain EU spec's. I don't know of anyone who had a copy of those spec's.

Re:Just to clarify... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418219)

Chinese knock-off artists copy the logo that says it meets the spec. Does it meet the spec? The only way to know is to have the spec available and perform testing to see if it meets the spec.

Re:Just to clarify... (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about 2 years ago | (#39418333)

Just in case you happen to have a lab with all the necessary equipment (properly calibrated, of course), and the properly trained personnel to use the equipment and analyse the results, and ready access to the things you are willing to destroy by testing, but are too cheap to purchase a copy of the spec.

To know what equipment is necessary (2)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#39418899)

But one needs the spec to know what equipment is necessary. It costs money just to learn that something is too expensive.

Re:Just to clarify... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418275)

Just to clarify.... this article deals specifically with the standards that ARE law. I'm aware that on /. most people don't read the article, but come on... you can at least read the first sentence of the summary.

Re:Just to clarify... (0)

bws111 (1216812) | about 2 years ago | (#39418639)

No, it doesn't. They try to make it seem like the standards are the law, but they are not. The law is the thing that says 'Any bicycle helmets offered for sale in the United States must meet or exceed standard xyz'. Standard xyz lays out all the details for making a safe bicycle helmet, but it is NOT a law. Making a bicycle helmet that does not meet standard xyz is not breaking a law. Offering it for sale in the US is.

And frankly, I am having a hard time figuring out why such a standard should be free. Who needs the standard other than bicycle helmet manufacturers? Why should the rest of us pay (with our taxes) so the manufacturers can have a free copy of the standard? Who benefits?

And what of the stuff IN the standard? If the standard mandates use of a material with certain characteristics is it the governmnents job to provide a supplier of that material? Is it the governments job to provide a manufacturing facility? Trained engineers?

Re:Just to clarify... (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#39419041)

Why should the rest of us pay (with our taxes) so the manufacturers can have a free copy of the standard? Who benefits?

Members of the public who buy bicycle helmets benefit.

If the standard mandates use of a material with certain characteristics is it the governmnents job to provide a supplier of that material? Is it the governments job to provide a manufacturing facility? Trained engineers?

It's the government's job to define a suitable supplier of the material, manufacturing facility, or trained engineers, if such definition is deemed necessary for products sold in a given country.

Re:Just to clarify... (1)

Qzukk (229616) | about 2 years ago | (#39419189)

Offering it for sale in the US is.

How, then, can I make a new bicycle helmet and compete? Oh right, by buying a specification that was likely developed by one of my competitors so that they can profit from everyone else's work.

Why should the rest of us pay (with our taxes) so the manufacturers can have a free copy of the standard?

Why should the manufacturer pay? Why can't the law just say "A bicycle helment must be made of X and be shaped like Y and resist impacts up to Z mph" instead of "buy the standard for $2750"?

Laws referencing SAE and UL standards. (3, Insightful)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#39418179)

This is probably done on purpose.

A large corporation can afford to follow Congressional laws and go buy all these private, expensive standards. Small businesses cannot. It's yet another way that regulations are used by megacorps to protect themselves from new, upstart competition.

Re:Laws referencing SAE and UL standards. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418463)

Oh, FFS.

Anyone get tired of seeing this on /.?

Someone brings up some case of gov't evil and someone comes up w/ a convoluted way to come up w/ making the poor
gov't an unwilling pawn of some large corporations.

Look ok. Yes, the never-ending entanglement of increasing centralized power and money in the military, federal gov't and corporations is a threat to freedom. But believe it or not, sometimes it isn't just the corporations. Sometimes it is those other things in the military-congressional-industrial complex.

Re:Laws referencing SAE and UL standards. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418481)

Oh, and also, seriously? A small corporation that can't afford the $100 to buy a technical standard? Or the $1000 to buy 10?

Even a 1 person corporation can usually afford that, if they can afford to start a business

Re:Laws referencing SAE and UL standards. (1)

Migraineman (632203) | about 2 years ago | (#39418915)

You don't need one or two documents, a small business needs several hundred. Each standard references several others in part or whole.

Same thing applies to your residence. Municipal governments purchase the IBC code (2012 Full Set $556.00 [iccsafe.org]), the NFPA code (2008 edition $82.00 [nfpa.org]), the NEC code (2008 edition plus CD $182.25 [nfpa.org]), et cetera, ad nauseum. There is *one* copy of each codebook available in a library somewhere, and no, you may not check it out - it has to stay available for anyone to look at in order to maintain the "ignorance is no excuse" cop-out. So please, go purchase all the relevant code documents associated with residential construction in your area and tell me when it starts to get financially significant.

Re:Laws referencing SAE and UL standards. (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#39419061)

A small business often begins as a hobby before it becomes profitable enough to become one's day job.

Re:Laws referencing SAE and UL standards. (1)

saider (177166) | about 2 years ago | (#39418715)

1) If you are running a business, $7500 for all the standards in the federal code is not a lot of money. You'll spend much more than that on your first month's payroll, or rent, etc.

2) Most of these regulations are for checking that something is made correctly and won't kill or injure people. If you are a citizen (not a business), why do you need the regulations and standards on how to build something?

2) You probably don't need more than a few of them for whatever widget you are producing. For example, if you are making screwdrivers, you don't need the IEC60601 spec.

Re:Laws referencing SAE and UL standards. (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#39418831)

Where did you get the $7500 figure? It appears you are underestimating the costs of complying with the various regulations (such as making sure a banana has 25 degrees curvature, else it must be discarded) the government has imposed. Any one regulation is not a big deal but take all 150,000 pages of the current code, and it adds up to millions of dollars.

Oh and no I'm not anti-regulation, anymore than I am anti-government. Obviously we need a little of both.

Re:Laws referencing SAE and UL standards. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418975)

>2) Most of these regulations are for checking that something is made correctly and won't kill or injure people. If you are a citizen (not a business), why do you need the regulations and standards on how to build something?

And this is why the "American" innovative spirit is officially dead.

Do you even know the true story about how TV was invented, who invented it, at what age and and what resources he had? Be assured, Philo Farnsworth wouldn't have been able to perform his work if he "only" needed $7,500 of specs (even if adjusted for his time).

How about the toaster? Charles Strite would have never been able to afford to invent the modern toaster if UL really gave a shit back then (and yes, I know that toasters went on to be the reason UL exists--unfortunate that they also killed off garage innovation rather than just helping it be safe).

Heck, how about the simple things? Things you can buy books on and do yourself. Try converting your car to electric/propane/natural gas yourself in your own garage. It's certainly simple enough for an average backyard mechanic, and the parts aren't really all that expensive. It would never be proper legal to drive on the road, though (but a lot of people get away with it). Go ahead and just TRY to get the specifications you need. Have fun! I'm sure it will make the project worthwhile.

Stop being a corporate slave.

Re:Laws referencing SAE and UL standards. (2)

SydShamino (547793) | about 2 years ago | (#39419125)

2) Most of these regulations are for checking that something is made correctly and won't kill or injure people. If you are a citizen (not a business), why do you need the regulations and standards on how to build something?

Are we so far along the corporation = business curve that we forget the role of craftsmen? Any given one of us - me, you - can choose to build and sell something. For some things we may not have the capital to do so, but for something like a bicycle helmet mentioned in other posts, I think I could afford the start-up costs to make and sell them in small quantities. However, the law says that selling them is illegal unless they meet a list of specifications. Except the law won't tell me the list of specifications. I would be forced to give money to one specific group - possibly to join that group - in order to comply with the law.

The idea that industry and manufacturing should only be run by guilds or cartels that can afford to buy into government-mandated private law clubs is absurd. And as soon as some private group gets software coding standards referenced into law, I suspect you'll agree with me.*

* assuming you are a software developer, as most of slashdot tends to be.

I'm too tired for this. (1)

Cazekiel (1417893) | about 2 years ago | (#39418251)

"These public safety standards govern and protect a wide range of activity, from how bicycle helmets are constructed to how to test for lead in water to the safety characteristics of hearing aids and protective footwear."

I'm now picturing a guy wearing a too-small, cracked, highly illegal bicycle helmet and worn-through loafers putting lead paint chips into a glass of water, then yelling, "HUH? WHAT?? HUH?" when the cops bust in. God, I'm tired.

If it the law... (2)

Genda (560240) | about 2 years ago | (#39418327)

Then we paid for it through our taxes. There is no sane argument to make citizens pay for it again. If the government contracted out the regulation to a private body, then the government should have paid for it and made it free to access for its citizens. If a private body offered to do it for free so that it could influence the nature of that body or regulations, then you best believe that they have already paid themselves and there is no sane grounds for them to avoid making those regulation available for the public at no cost. You can't charge people twice for the same thing (though I know that every corporation in the country is desperately looking at ways to do precisely that.)

Re:If it the law... (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about 2 years ago | (#39418437)

You can't charge people twice for the same thing

That's exactly what royalties are all about. Corporations do their darnedest to be in a position to collect royalties and to avoid paying them.

Your normal wage slave digs a ditch and gets paid once for it. A smart person creates something that can pay them over and over again. If you're not very creative, buy real estate and rent it to other people.

As far as this topic goes, this is just government being lazy. Rather than create their own working standards, or buy the rights to someone else's work, small governments just say "look over there" and hope nobody calls them on it.

Re:If it the law... (0)

Ramley (1168049) | about 2 years ago | (#39418561)

Then we paid for it through our taxes. There is no sane argument to make citizens pay for it again.

Why not? The Obama administration would like to raise the estate tax (death tax), tax on dividends, etc.

You've already paid taxes on the things you own, and when you die, they tax your family so much, they may not be able to own the things you left for them.

With dividends, you've paid the tax on your income, and when you retire, and need the income from your own money, you'll get a nice percentage of that taken too.

With that logic, I see no reason to pay for things twice, and again. Obama is pushing hard for this. Fair or not. I'll stick with the bush tax cuts. They do affect me, and I am by no means rich. Just wait until Obama keeps creeping down the road until he gets to you.

Re:If it the law... (1, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | about 2 years ago | (#39419081)

Why not? The Obama administration would like to raise the estate tax (death tax), tax on dividends, etc.

You've already paid taxes on the things you own, and when you die, they tax your family so much, they may not be able to own the things you left for them.

Why should your family have a right to inherit? You did not choose your parents. Whether you have wealthy parents to inherit is a crapshoot.

The egalitarian approach would be to have a 100% inheritance tax, so only those willing to pay the actual value to obtain something of sentimental value will inherit it..
Then auction off the rest, and use the money to provide all children with good living standards, education and healthcare.

Re:If it the law... (1)

SydShamino (547793) | about 2 years ago | (#39419207)

Money is taxed each time it changes hands. I pay income tax on money I acquire. If I then hire someone to work for me, they pay income tax on the money they acquire from me.

Under your logic all taxation would be impossible because any given money (except maybe that being spent directly by the government) has already been taxed at least once.

So if I pay taxes on money I acquire, then later I die and my children acquire the money, they pay taxes on it. This is consistent with the way the government works. But the government even gives some pretty big breaks away, what with large exclusions from the estate tax at the time of death, and of course the option to give the money away to people over the years prior to death.

Copyright, Maybe (1)

richg74 (650636) | about 2 years ago | (#39418383)

Malamud and his Public.Resource.Org foundation are trying — very cautiously — to make these laws more broadly available. "...even though we strongly believe that the documents are not entitled to copyright protection ...

They perhaps should have copyright protection (as, for example, GPL software does), but should have to be distributed under a suitable "copyleft" license.

Re:Copyright, Maybe (1)

SydShamino (547793) | about 2 years ago | (#39419233)

No no, if it's the law of the land it must be public domain. Nothing is more clearly public domain than the law.

What about updates? (1)

Tokolosh (1256448) | about 2 years ago | (#39418401)

Standards and regulations are updated on a regular basis by their issuing authorities. If Public.Resource.Org releases these into the wild, then they will be updated, by inserting a single comma, and reissued. This will invalidate the previous versions and force the purchase of a new set.

It's a good racket.

Building Codes (2)

djdbass (1037730) | about 2 years ago | (#39418439)

I would love to see local building codes released for free to the public. At least in my city, the only way to get them is to pay around $200 for the book, which expires annually.

Re:Building Codes (1)

DRJlaw (946416) | about 2 years ago | (#39419107)

Make a public records request for the book. If the copying fees are substantial, make sure to request to inspect, rather than receive copies, of the book.

In states that have public records laws, the code enforement officer's library is your library, so long as the material documents the 'operations' of the public office. Any code that is referenced by the building code pretty much automatically documents the enforement operations of the office, and is fair game with reasonable notice. In the state where I practice, the penalties for non-compliance can also be rather punative.

A Solution! (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#39418467)

In the spirit of patriotic helpfulness, a coalition of Your Friends In Industry has formed to, voluntarily and at no cost to you, write and provide for free distribution an entirely new, 100% cooler, set of standards!

Replace that pricey, stick-in-the-mud 'ASTM D 3559A' that some 4-eyes loser at the EPA wants you to use with the new American Chemistry Council "Eh, it looks clean to me, what're you so worried about?" testing solution!

Don't bother with boring old 'FAO Nutrition Meeting Report Series, No. 45A' when you can rely on the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's new "Scale from 1 to Delicious" food quality metrics!

All jokes aside, relying on standards that you can't look at without shelling out a bundle when writing laws is bad. We pay people to write laws, we should be able to see all of the product. However, we should be very careful that some less-than-exactly-disinterested asshole's 'cost saving' solution doesn't end up replacing expensive; but at least sometimes best-expert-position, standards with the finest in free-because-they-are-worth-far-less-than-what-you-pay lobbying under the guise of assistance...

Re:A Solution! (1)

blueg3 (192743) | about 2 years ago | (#39418563)

Do keep in mind that for anyone in industry, this documentation does not cost a bundle. The average cost of the documentation they purchased is about $100 each. Cheaper than a textbook.

Re:A Solution! (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#39419103)

for anyone in industry

Not everyone is already in industry; some are joining industry for the first time.

this documentation does not cost a bundle. The average cost of the documentation they purchased is about $100 each. Cheaper than a textbook.

And like textbooks, the documentation is often updated into expensive new editions. For how many years does the documentation remain valid?

Form a Corporation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418503)

CORPORATION, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.

If the corporation incurs $275 million dollars in liability and has no assets (apart from some empty boxes that formerly contained bootleg copies of public domain works), then it goes into bankruptcy and "dies". (Oh, the people suing for damages might get to keep the empty boxes, so don't get too attached to them.)

The former owners of the corporation continue on as if nothing happened.
If you've got another $8000 for another run then wash, rinse, and repeat.

National Standards (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about 2 years ago | (#39418539)

I understand that some places might have special needs, like anti-corrosion parts nearer the ocean, or huricane resistance where there is actually a chance of a hurricane. But, do we really need completely different building standards that change depending on which side of an artificial border you're on?

Perhaps we need a National Bureau of Standards who keep all the standards, and local governments just pick from the relevant ones? That department would keep a web site, and local goverments could publish links.

Health Concerns... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418659)

I work at the bottom of a large nationwide chemicals corporation. We are required by law to adhere to certain laws and regulations on how we create and label our products. While the information about what we can put into our products (e.x. Calif. Prop. 65) is available for our use, the information that keeps people safe (Thinks like WARNING! Flammable vapor and liquid! Etc...) is strictly on a per membership basis. The cost to obtain the up-to date information exceeds a quarter million a year. Can my company afford it? Probably... but they don't. Have people been hurt because of poor information? I can't even imagine how many... fortunately for the corporation most of the people using our product are illegals who have no grounds to be in the US and are afraid to sue.

Re:Health Concerns... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418847)

So you are a street dealer for nationwide meth lab cartel? Cause other than that, your story sounds like pure BS.

So let them sue themselves out of existance... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418807)

If they make a copyright claim on "the law" then either they are clearly going to waste a lot of money in court and lose, or they'll win and the thing they claimed copyright on will no longer be "the law" and they can't sell it anymore, making your damages very minimal.

The more laws, the less justice. (1)

Voogru (2503382) | about 2 years ago | (#39418849)

"The more prohibitions there are, the poorer the people will be. The more laws are promulgated, the more thieves and bandits there will be." -Lao-tzu

"There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws."
-Ayn Rand

Freedom isn't free (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39418865)

Or so I've been taught to think.

Contradictory court ruling (2)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#39418889)

These two sentences come from the first paragraph of the court ruling:

Our short answer is that as law, the model codes enter the public domain and are not subject to the copyright holder's exclusive prerogatives. As model codes, however, the organization's works retain their protected status.

That obviously contradicts itself. The same text cannot be both public domain and protected at the same time. Why do we have judges who think it is acceptable to issue blatantly contradictory rulings?

ignorance of the law (3, Insightful)

JustNiz (692889) | about 2 years ago | (#39418891)

So in the US, ignorance of the law is not a legal defence, however you need to spend money to find out what the law says?
wow.

Rule of Law (1)

neonv (803374) | about 2 years ago | (#39419027)

The Rule of Law states that "The laws are clear, publicized, stable, fair, and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_law).

Laws need to be publicly available, meaning at no cost. The article states that courts have consistently ruled as such, even when private publications are adopted as law. Since there's precedence, and probably a vast majority of public opinion, I don't think they're taking a big risk by publishing the standards. The publishing agencies may not sue simply because they don't want to risk an unfavorable decision.

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