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Is Law Copyrighted?

timothy posted more than 13 years ago | from the no-need-to-hide-behind-it dept.

Censorship 370

Guppy06 writes: "There's an interesting tidbit here at the San Diego Union-Tribune about a guy who posted his local (Denison, TX) building code on the internet and prompty got nasty-grams from copyright lawyers at the Southern Building Code Congress International Inc. The bill in question was copyrighted by the group before it was sent to the local legislature, so the wording of the law belongs to them. So far, two Federal courts agree with the group. In the article, they seem to be taking the Microsoft-esque view of 'Who would write these things for free? Look at all the good it's done!'" And since many laws are written wholly by groups composed of non-legislators (the article lists a few), disseminating them on the Internet is a misdeed?

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Circular reasoning (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#225301)

Isn't this circular reasoning? "The law can be copyrighted because we think that the law says so."

Not unusual (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#225302)

A couple of years ago, in British Columbia, Canada, the agency that regulates pressure vessels required for renewal of license that everyone purchase or provide proof of posession of a number of documents and manuals pertinent to the Act. It cost over $300 for the whole thing. It consisted of about 3/4 inch thick bunch of papers. Some were copies of the legislation, courtesy of Queens Printer. There were two booklets put out by ASME on piping standards. All copyright. I suspect this isn't unusual. Those who need to know this stuff are doing it to generate money, same with the building code. Who should pay for the production and distribution of the regulations? All taxpayers? Or those who use and benefit from them? Who pays the engineers to come up with the standards? The whole industry, through fees to engineers and architects, who then send fees to the various associations they belong to. Remember, if you want to freely distribute what you produce, good for you. If someone else doesn't want to freely distribute what they produce, good for them. Free software depends on copyright law as much as the proprietary endeavors. If you want engineered and peer reviewed and tested standards for buildings for free, write your own. Then get them adopted by the various local authorities. And get alot of insurance. Derek

Due Process??? Equal Protection??? (5)

sahai (102) | more than 13 years ago | (#225303)

From the 14th Ammendment:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property,
without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

An odd world indeed where you deny some of the citizens (the ones who can't afford to pay a private organization that presumably can price its "product" however it wishes!) the right to view, share, and circulate the law among themselves. At the very least, non-commercial distribution with any changes clearly marked ought to be allowed if we want the citizenry to have "equal protection of the laws."

Re:Text of 5th Circuit Decision is copyrighted (2)

wayne (1579) | more than 13 years ago | (#225315)

The acutal case is
Veeck v. Southern Building Code Congress Int'l [] , 241 F.3d 398 (5th Cir. 2001). (Link is to Findlaw version.)
And, of course, at the bottom of this web page, there is the note "Copyright © 1994-2001 FindLaw". This isn't just standard boiler plate for a web page, companies like FindLaw [] and Westlaw [] claim copyrights over much of the American case law.

Well, they don't own the copyright to the actual case law, but they have contracts to be the sole publisher for court documents. They then intermix the public domain case law with their own works so that it is extremely hard to seperate their copyrighted additions from the rest. You want to practice law? You will end up paying yearly fees to these companies. The courts see this as a big plus because they don't have to publish this stuff themselves and no tax dollars are spent.

You would think... (2)

Booker (6173) | more than 13 years ago | (#225322)

You would think that if your friendly Town Hall was going to hire someone to write their laws, they would AT LEAST insist that the resulting document belong to the City, and not to the legal firm.

If it's copyrighted, there are probably terms of use - I'd like to see what those are...

"Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?"

Re:Only in America... (1)

MbM (7065) | more than 13 years ago | (#225326)

I'm sorry, but by posting this you've broken a law owned by my firm.

"I didn't see anything saying I couldn't do that!"
It wasn't posted. You need to obtain an official copy.

"Well what law did I break?"
I'm sorry, you'll need to purchase an official printed and bound copy for $350 for that answer.

"Wait a minute, how do I know this isn't a scam?"
Legal fees If you're wrong will run in ecess of $550. Printed copies of our law are only $350. Are you willing to take that chance?

"Hey! nothing in here says I can't do that. I'm calling my lawyer."
Has he purchased an official copy?
- MbM

Who Owns the Law (3)

mattkime (8466) | more than 13 years ago | (#225338)

So, who wants to find a way to take this to the Supreme Court?

It just does not make sense that someone could own the law. The implications of this do nothing but place unreasonable restrictions on the individual. I think it is reasonable to pay $300 for a book on building codes, but one should have other options. This creates a definite financial gain to be made by getting your text made into law. Imagine if Microsoft's End User Agreement became the standard software liscense. It would be concievable that MS could profit off of every piece of commercial software sold.

Additionally, by allowing law to be copyrighted, it restricts discussion of law. If I want to put up a website critical of the building codes and need direct, verbatim quotes, I sure as hell won't get permission to use the building codes directly.

What about laws released under usage liscenses? Could one own the usage liscense while making the law public domain? Does the GPL need to be GPL'ed? :)

True, making all government laws may reduce the amount of money laywers are making off of them. Damn...I'm trying to be sympathetic, but I just can't get there!

Re:Waaaaaait a second. (1)

Brian See (11276) | more than 13 years ago | (#225344)

Well, in this case, the state government didn't WRITE the buidling code -- they just adopted the code.

So, the code, written by SBC, is still an "original work of authorship" subject to copyright protection.

Take court decisions, for instance. The text of the decision, written by the judge, is not subject to copyright. But the page numbering of certain editions, from, say, West Publishing, are copyrighted by the publisher. So someone can copy the text, but can't cite to the page numbers. Sounds crazy, but that's the state of the law, which is what is giving (other) legal publishers headaches.

This is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, see a lawyer, not /.

Re:Due Process??? Equal Protection??? (1)

Brian See (11276) | more than 13 years ago | (#225345)

The Fifth Circuit held that due process wasn't violated because the code was "available". What Veeck did was to copy the disk he got from the building code people, and paste it onto his website. Wholesale copying.

The Fifth Circuit thinks that if you can go the library, and see the code there (for free), or go the public works department and ask to see a copy of the code, then due process is satisfied.

Also note that fair use is a real hard argument to make here, since Veeck copied the entire code. By making it freely available online, he eviscerated the market for the work.

Re:Waaaaaait a second. (1)

Brian See (11276) | more than 13 years ago | (#225346)

I stand corrected; I wish I could edit the parent post.

I'll chalk up my confusion to a conflict in the circuits. The Eighth Circuit, in West Pub. Co. v. Mead Data Cent., Inc., 799 F.2d 1219 (8th Cir. 1986) is in conflict with the Second Circuit in Matthew Bender & Co. v. Hyperlaw, 158 F.3d 693 (2d Cir. 1998).

Further, it's not the first page (for parallel cites) that's being fought over; it's the star pagination to the internal pages. Talk about splitting hairs.

Due Process and the Internet (2)

Brian See (11276) | more than 13 years ago | (#225348)

This case isn't about ignorance of the law.

According to the Fifth Circuit, Vreeck (the acccused copyright infringer) could have gone down to the department of public works during business hours and asked to see the code. Or he could have gone to the local library and look at the book there.

I think this case is a lot more important (and complex) than some /. comments seem to indicate. Specifically, the courts need to ask themselves, does the ready availability of access to information raise the bar of due process?

The oft-quoted John Perry Barlow phrase, "Information wants to be free" should be restated for the courts: "Does due process require this information to be freely, instantly available?"

Text of 5th Circuit Decision (5)

Brian See (11276) | more than 13 years ago | (#225352)

The acutal case is Veeck v. Southern Building Code Congress Int'l [] , 241 F.3d 398 (5th Cir. 2001). (Link is to Findlaw version.)

It's a 2-1 decision from the 5th Circuit. The due process part of the decision appears to turn on the fact that the panel felt that no one was being denied access to the text of the code itself. The Fifth Circuit panel stated that "due process requires at a minimum that the codes should be available for inspection and copying at the city offices in towns where they have been adopted". However, Veeck admitted that the codes were available during times when city officials were available. So, I guess we want to ask ourselves, is 24-hour, online access a part of due process? Before the Internet, how many people had such ready access to the text of laws?

Also note that the Ninth Circuit has held that that the American Medical Association did not lose the right to enforce its copyright when use of its promulgated coding system was required by government regulations, and the Seocnd Circuit upheld the copyright of the "Red Book" projections of used car valuations...

This is not legal advice. If you need specific legal advice, consult with a lawyer, and not /.

Re:How Can this be (4)

RAruler (11862) | more than 13 years ago | (#225353)

You'd pay by credit card, so they not only know where you are, but how fast your going. This goes into a huge database, which helps the government track your whereabouts at all times, and helps to promote billboard ads.

Don't worry, i'm sure theres a EULA on the road, that you accept by placing your vehicle on it. I mean, the EULA is in your best interest, the Government made the roads for you to drive on, they should atleast have the guarntee that you won't try to reverse-engineer the process of road making. Thats a strictly controlled process, and has strict regulations as defined by the Building Code Laws. But you wouldn't know that, as it can't be published freely.


Re:Well... (1)

no-s (12430) | more than 13 years ago | (#225354)

If the law is not for dissemination, it is not the law.

Re:Even better (1)

damm0 (14229) | more than 13 years ago | (#225355)

Ha! I used to work in a copy place.. usually we would use that line to get out of copying something that would be a pain to do.

"We'd love to make a single copy of 'War and Peace' for you, but we can't because it is copyrighted. However, feel free to make use of our self server copiers.."

I love their lawyer... (2)

NMerriam (15122) | more than 13 years ago | (#225358)

Veal, the Southern Building Code Congress attorney, noted that three years ago the Office of Management and Budget directed all federal agencies to incorporate privately developed regulations "whenever practicable and appropriate" to cut the government's cost of developing its own standards.

"The people who are involved in this case, on both sides, I think are people who are strongly interested in what's for the public good," Veal said.

"It's just a matter of different people having different ideas of how the public should be served."

Their lawyer's final statement seemed oddly familiar.

Then I remembered -- "To Serve Man".


Didn't ESR have the same problem ... ? (2)

LL (20038) | more than 13 years ago | (#225365)

... with the Halloween [] documents? Because they were copyrighted by Microsoft, he deliberately structured them as commentary (annotations). Given that governments usually release draft versions of bills for public commentary, I would say historical evidence is on their side. The only situation where it might be improper is if they misrepresent the source or deliberately alter the text. What I think people might object to is deliberately copyrighting a document with the intent of never releaseing it (ie using the legal protection as a tax-payer supported veil) or barrier to revision. In this case whistle-bblower or anti-competition legistlation might take precendence.

The other approach is to treat the passed law as a fact. Sports commentary have established that a fact is common/public (though the database schema can be protected) and decomposing the document as a series of legal facts and rearranging hte order (sorted by relevance) might be another way around it.

When the spirit of the law gets twisted by the letter, then it is time to start worrying about the system. A tyrancy of compelled behaviour (whether criminal case, civil code or ecnomic conduct) is no less for being promoted by a group than a dictator. Given that special interests are much more motivated to pass/support/write bad legistlation, it seems that greater transparency is needed, not less.

Quid custodit ipsos custodes?


surely there's *some* non-greedy rationale?! (1)

pangloss (25315) | more than 13 years ago | (#225368)

Of course on the face of it, as described, the idea of copyrighted laws seems ludicrous. So I'm trying to understand the underlying rationale.

If profit was the only motive, it seems like a pretty roundabout way of making money: organize a group to draft legislation and push it through a legislature so that you can sell print and electronic copies of the text. Although USD6.7 million over ten yeas isn't too shabby. Well, for the sake of humor you might say this constitutes a better business plan than most recent dot-bombs, but honestly, it doesn't sound like the kind of work you get into for the sake of profit.

If laws are private property and you have to pay to view the laws, then you have a basis for arguing that ignorance of the law constitutes innocence. Homelessness laws aside, poverty isn't a crime in the U.S. yet, but instituting a direct financial barrier to access to the laws seems to force ignorance of the laws to people below a certain income level.

It's already the case that the sheer number of laws on the books, court rulings, precedents, etc. at least indirectly creates a financial barrier to knowledge of the laws insofar as you essentially have to be able to afford to consult a lawyer about any non-trivial legal concern.

The argument that without these private interests, we would have "dilapidated, outdated building codes, because nobody would do it for free" seems to suggest some motive for the public good/safety--i.e. passing laws. Yet if that's the intent, why betray that intent by introducing barriers to knowledge of these laws? The argument seems inconsistent. Furthermore, the argument suggests that when there's no financial interest directly at stake, laws don't get passed. While the cynical might make a good case for this, it is nevertheless the case that we have laws for the benefit of public health and safety that, if anything, run contrary to coprporate financial interests. So what's the rationale? Or is it just incoherent/inconsistent?

The most amazing thing to me is this has withstood a federal court challenge and appeal.

On The Positive Side (1)

Alex Pennace (27488) | more than 13 years ago | (#225369)

The body charged with enforcing this particular code can't distribute copies of the code to its employees without paying extra fees to the copyright holder. Ignorance may not be an excuse, but it helps if the cops are just as clueless as you are.

Just when you think it can't get any worse... (1)

einTier (33752) | more than 13 years ago | (#225380)

it does.

Is there anyone who doesn't think copyright is out of control now? Anyone? Bueller?

Let's see, here's something I wrote. I think it should be law. I copyright it, submit it, and now it is law. However, since I own the copyright, I won't let you read it, not even for one million dollars. Nope. Just hope you don't violate it. I'll be sure to let you know when you do.

The precident here is terrible. One, we shouldn't be rubber stamping laws for corporations. Two, if you do write a law, submit it, and it becomes law, then you lose all rights to that intellectual property. Period. Laws are written by (theoretically) and property of the state -- which means it belongs to the people. Your tax dollars paid for it, you should be able to use it as you see fit.

I wonder why every law professional contacted is weighing in on the side of the guy who posted it on the internet in the first place. Maybe because letting someone else own the law is dangerous and pretty much against everything this country stands for?

Re:Write to Congress! (2)

Platinum Dragon (34829) | more than 13 years ago | (#225382)

I agree that this whole thing is stupid, but noone is granted a "right" to know the laws that they live under.

Uhhhh, what?

You have a responsibility to follow constitutional laws as passed...but you don't have a corresponding right to know what those laws are?

That would make ignorance of the law a valid excuse, which it is not.

A just legal system does not put people into a position where they can be punished for rules they don't have the right and opportunity to know about.

Reminds me of a .sig I saw here once... (3)

Platinum Dragon (34829) | more than 13 years ago | (#225383)

Welcome to America(tm). Home of the Free(tm). We invented freedom, and we copyrighted it. You may license it for a small (enormous) fee. - mensch.

Thanks to the heavy private, closed, corporate influence in and of groups like WIPO, the WTO, and the drafting of documents like FTAA outside of public view, this is becoming a frightening possibility. Private groups controlling laws you're forced to obey, in effect taking the powers of the state with none of the checks or balances, and making a good amount of money from it, is the kind of nightmare depicted in Kosh-knows-how-many speculative fiction works. How fun to watch it unfold in front of our very eyes.

I wonder if the term "RICO" could be apply certainly seems like a lot of these "non-profit" (HAH!) organizations are running rather lucrative rackets.

Re:Waaaaaait a second. (5)

Platinum Dragon (34829) | more than 13 years ago | (#225384)

IIRC, isn't everything from government SPECIFICALLY excluded from copyright, as it's all done using the people's money? That applies to state governments, too, who write the building codes...

According to the article, the building organization attacking our hero wrote the law and just handed it to the state to pass.

Private groups writing laws and handing them to legislative bodies for rubber-stamping...where have we seen this take place before *coughDMCAcough*? Only this time it looks like the body wants to make a buck off the law people are expected to follow.

This also creates a situation where a powerful private group with certain interests can draft a law heavily in their favour, get it passed by friends in a legislature, and keep it hidden from public view in order to keep people from seeing what their tax dollars went toward passing. Secret bodies of law? Rules that benefit a privileged few while no one else can see they exist? Sounds like paranoid fantasies, but this story goes to show such bizarre thoughts aren't too far from the realm of possibility.

That's it. I'm going to hide under the bed. Call me when the nightmare's over.

Re:Only in America... (4)

acidrain (35064) | more than 13 years ago | (#225386)

Yes, only in america. Thank god I'm not an American. Now if only we can keep them out of the WTO and shut down the FTAA the rest of the world will be spared this kind of IP relared braindamage...

Re:government services (1)

travisd (35242) | more than 13 years ago | (#225388)

You don't draft a law anyway - Bills are drafted and then after review can be voted into Law.

So who else has "I'm just a Bill..." from Schoolhouse rock going thru their heads right now?

Re:Even better (2)

mpe (36238) | more than 13 years ago | (#225390)

Even better, I'll write up a law, copyright it, and get it passed. My law will repeal all copyright laws. Talk about a paradox.

The tricky bit is getting it passed. Maybe you could have it added as a rider to something completly unrelated... e.g. "bill for paying legislators more money".

Re:Waaaaaait a second. (2)

mpe (36238) | more than 13 years ago | (#225391)

This also creates a situation where a powerful private group with certain interests can draft a law heavily in their favour, get it passed by friends in a legislature, and keep it hidden from public view in order to keep people from seeing what their tax dollars went toward passing.

Even if it does become publically available after its been passed there is still a problem. Since it's going to be a lot harder to get something ammended after it has been passed.
Also does not US copyright law have various "fair use" provisions which could be applied here.

Re:Waaaaaait a second. (2)

mpe (36238) | more than 13 years ago | (#225392)

Well, in this case, the state government didn't WRITE the buidling code -- they just adopted the code.
So, the code, written by SBC, is still an "original work of authorship" subject to copyright protection.

In the case of many publications submitting material means that you hand over copyright. e.g. letters to a newspaper. Maybe unconditionally maybe only if they publish it. Maybe the same criteria needs to apply to submissions to a legislative body.

This is really old news . . . (5)

werdna (39029) | more than 13 years ago | (#225408)

This article discusses the February holding of the Fifth Circuit, and is just the latest incarnation of decades of case law addressing copyrightability of technical building codes. Similar cases dating back into the 80s have emerged from the Second, Eighth, Ninth and Eleventh Circuits.

My point here is not to argue that the result is a good one (I dislike this on public policy grounds for reasons similar to those laid forth elsewhere in this thread), but to suggest that this is hardly "the beginning of the end," or some new malevolence from the recently copyright-hungry courts. Since the 80's, this is how the law has shaken out on building codes. Over more than twenty years from the earliest opinions in this thread of which I am aware, the sky has not yet fallen.

For a really interesting (and I think sound) discussion of why the case has merit and failings, I suggest reading the opinion and dissent itself, but particularly the dissent. They can be found here [] . I am most impressed with Judge Little's argument that, once enacted into law, the words of a statute no longer serve just their expressive purposes, but are transmogrified into a functional idea. Clearly a bit too metaphysical for the Courts, but I anticipate that someday this notion may hold sway.

In the meanwhile, building contractors have hardly had difficulty getting their hands on the building codes. They are readily available, both at the county clerk's office and from the original standards organizations.

If, in fact, the parade of horribles had happened -- that is to say that the codes were not available to those who required them, republication would clearly have been fair use.

Well, the policy is... (2)

brianvan (42539) | more than 13 years ago | (#225412)

I believe any works produced by the government are exempt from copyright, patent, trademark, etc...

While I know that this law was submitted by a group of private citizens, once it enters law, it was drafted (somehow) by legislators into an official document, making it a government work, making it non-copyrightable in that form. Otherwise, we have two catastrophes of justice here:

1. Groups who compose laws then have unreasonable control over the distribution of the information contained in the law.

2. Private citizens are then directly submitting laws for approval to legislature, in the absence of elected officials whose job it is to compose our laws.

This a "what SHOULD happen" case, not "what DOES happen" case. But certainly, the Supreme Court would not uphold this kind of copyright - after all, law is supposed to be public record, and I can't see the government getting trapped into this kind of mess. After all, then shouldn't we be paying royalties to the RIAA and the MPAA out of taxes for every reference to the DMCA?!?!

Re:Text of 5th Circuit Decision (2)

aufait (45237) | more than 13 years ago | (#225416)

that the codes should be available for inspection and copying at the city offices

Isn't that a violation of copyright law? Are city officials supposed to aide and abet these kind of violations?

Re:Write to Congress! (3)

Desert Raven (52125) | more than 13 years ago | (#225426)

>>This is a no-brainer win for a Congressman, so they will probably take it up. <<

You think so? I certainly don't agree. Remember that most of your congresscritters are LAWYERS. They're the ones who put us in this situation. They also get a lot of money from people who very much want things to stay the way they are. And, last of all, lawyers don't make any money when the system is simple and fair. Changing this law would be a direct conflict of interest for the majority of Congress.

I've always thought the US legal system was flawed in one particular way... Imagine a game where the citizens represent the players, and the lawyers represent the referees. The referees are paid by the players for both the length of the game, and the number of calls. Now, imagine that the referees could re-write the rules any time they wanted, including during the game. Now you've got a game where it is the referees' best interest to make the game last as long as possible, and have as many calls as possible.

What do you call a lawyer who graded his own tests in law school?

Your honor.

Re:Circular reasoning (1)

eric17 (53263) | more than 13 years ago | (#225433)

Yep. There ought to be law against circular reasoning in laws.

Guilty (1)

underwhelm (53409) | more than 13 years ago | (#225434)

Done that--in fact it's usually the only time I tell people copyright bars me from making their copies. Unless there's someone else around, since I'm in a position of authority and could get in a heap-of-trouble.

It makes ordinary people feel quite satisfied when I look left, then look right, and say sotto voce "I can do it for you... but don't tell anyone."

underwhelm, actively subverting copyright and promoting fair use in contravention of chickenshit corporate policy since at least 1999.

Even better (3)

underwhelm (53409) | more than 13 years ago | (#225436)

As many of you may know, I work for Kinkos, where we have a restrictive copyright policy (it has to be more restrictive than the actual law so we don't get sued *again*).

A lady came in yesterday wanting to copy the MN State Driver's Manual for her daughter, but I couldn't do it because it had a copyright notice in it. Now, I'm under the impression that the government doesn't own copyrights (everything the gov't owns is in the public domain), but this must have been prepared by someone else.

So I had to tell her no, and show her how to use the self-serve copiers so she could make copies (not of the copyrighted material, of course. *I don't know what in the world she actually copied, I hope she didn't break any laws!*).

We wouldn't want these people to know how to drive, would we? It's better this way.

in germany this could not happen (1)

real-q (54985) | more than 13 years ago | (#225438)

here we have written in the law that everyone who wants to copy, cite and whatever is allowed to do so since everybody should know the law, therefore everybody has the right to use it

How Can this be (4)

Gildenstern (62439) | more than 13 years ago | (#225440)

How can this type of thing be allowed to happen. If laws aren't published how would anyone ever know that this exist. It is so wrong to think that we as good citizens are suppose to follow laws that we can't even ready.

Any court that upholds this kind of thing must be funny in the head

need for reorganization (1)

joq (63625) | more than 13 years ago | (#225442)

The entire legal system everywhere, not only the United States needs an exhaustive overhaul. Has anyone taken a trip to Dumb Laws [] ?

In Cali:
  • You are forbidden to spit on the ground within 5 feet of another person.
  • It is illegal to own or sell "Silly String".
  • It is illegal to posses, own or raise roosters.
  • This is considered disturbing the peace.
  • Cars are the only item allowed in a garage.
  • It is illegal to curse on a mini-golf course.
  • It is illegal for a man to beat his wife with a strap wider than 2 inches without her consent.
  • You cannot bathe two babies in the same tub at the same time.
  • You may not hunt moths under a street light.
  • It is illegal to cry on the witness stand.
  • Toads may not be licked.

What happens in my eyes, is laws are made with a few scenarios taken into consideration, and as times change, the laws remain the same, never ever being reconsidered and often coming back to the limelight in some funny fashions.

So should laws be copywritten? Sure only if someone is allowed to copywrite the letters of the alphabet, and that person is paid for someone else's use of otherwise freely available information.

Re:Write to Congress! (1)

thopkins (70408) | more than 13 years ago | (#225447)

I agree that this whole thing is stupid, but noone is granted a "right" to know the laws that they live under. Find in the Constitution where you're given a right to know the laws. Many legal arguments like this seem to rest on people thinking they have have "rights" that they don't have.

Credit Reports (2)

scoove (71173) | more than 13 years ago | (#225449)

Great idea... how about we do it with credit reports?

I'd be happy to license the use of my name, address and phone (plus other information they like to reference) for $2 million per credit reporting agency (after all, they make money off of my data too, so that's sort of a reseller's license).

Folks wishing to retrieve the information from the credit reporting agency could do so under NDA for a similar license fee. Sort of a EULA thing.

"Let's see, Mr. Banker. I owe you $350K for the house mortage, and you owe me $500K for the license. Throw in a Ferrari and I'll call it even."

Re:Kafka anyone? (3)

scoove (71173) | more than 13 years ago | (#225450)

I think you're referring to Kafka's "The Trial."

Actually, while "The Trial" is important reading, "The Castle" is even more entertaining/depressing/fascinating. I've seen many dot-com horror stories that seem to have a lot of parallels.

The updated "Castle" would be: showing up for a job one was hired for but only having everyone else being embarrassed for you because you showed up, not knowing you weren't needed since the position you were hired for was cancelled without your awareness.

When you try to contact upper management to clear up the confusion, you'd be shunned by the other low-level employees who were horrified at your arrogance. After all, a new hire who shouldn't even be there in the first place can't just march up to the "senior management floor" without invitation and expect to command their time for your pathetic little problem.

Yes, Kafka definitely foresaw our era.


Re:How Can this be (5)

scoove (71173) | more than 13 years ago | (#225451)

What's next - speed limit signs with nothing but a toll-free number?

"Call now and mention this sign to learn how fast you may legally go - only $2.95 per call!"

And they say ignorance is no defense...


The Open Source Intellectual Property Project (2)

dsplat (73054) | more than 13 years ago | (#225453)

Announcing the Open Source Intellectual Property Project. This project intends to copyright everything said, written or done by all of its members. All intellectual property of the project will be licensed under the GPL. We will be particularly strict about enforcing the application of the GPL to all derivative works.

Copyright (C) 2001 The Open Source Intellectual Property Project. This work may be copied and distributed under the conditions of the Gnu Public License.

Re:Text of 5th Circuit Decision (2)

shadowRider (73942) | more than 13 years ago | (#225456)

I agree that under current law the guy doesn't seem to have much of a case, since the information was publicly available at city offices. But expectations about access to information are rising and this will soon seem like an unreasonable burden on the public. Why should I have to take a day off work to spend at the county office, photocopying every code I might concievably need, instead of quickly looking up what I need to know on the Internet in the evenings when I need it. At the very least, local governments should require the the copyright holder to allow city offices to maintain the information online. I'm sure they could still manage to sell a few copies of the hardcover version.

License to ignore the law (3)

EyesOfNostradamus (75825) | more than 13 years ago | (#225458)

Don't they realize that by condemning Peter Veeck for posting the building code, they are in effect repealing that building code. Here In France, we have a saying "Nul n'est censé ignorer la loi", meaning "Nobody is supposed to be in ignorance of the law". This saying is supposed to forestall the stupid excuse of "But your Honor, I didn't know that this act that I committed was against the law. Honest.".

Now, the accused can prove that he could not have possibly known about the law (because publishing it would have been prohibited by copyright...), and suddenly this stupid excuse becomes a perfectly acceptable defense!

Only in America... (4)

Dios (83038) | more than 13 years ago | (#225461)

Hmm.. Why don't we just go back to the days of Kings and Queens..

We have rules, and you can purchase a copy for $19.95 (all rights reserved). Otherwise take your chances and see if you break our rules. Oh yes, lending your purchased legal copy of the rules to somone else is a violation, and you will be fined. (of course, you would have known this had you purchased the rules..)

I've been to Denison, TX (sister city to Cognac, France fyi (thanks Mr. Craig)). Its not that pretty of a city.

At the risk of sounding slightly paranoid... (1)

eagl (86459) | more than 13 years ago | (#225464)

This kind of thing happens ALL THE TIME with the US Government. Usually it is pork barrel spending provisions that get tacked onto other legitimate bills that the politicians want to hide from US citizens, but more and more politicians want people to shut up and consent to being governed without worrying about the gory details.

The usual claim is that a citizen's true voice is expressed in the voting booth where he or she votes for their representatives, but a true citizen's responsibility does not end there regardless of what they're told. It is very important to keep track of what your representatives actually do while in office.

This bit about copyrighting public law proposals is dishonest and outright dangerous in a constitutional republic like the United States. Any work or derivative from works done in public service must remain in the public domain. This needs to apply to any document that touches on our systems of government except in clear cases of national security (and then they should be subject to oversight.)

If they want to hide their proposals and bills, they're clearly trying to hide something or gain profit from keeping you ignorant. This is how things work in the corporate world, but it's a dangerous attitude when it comes to government. Fight back, find out how YOUR representatives vote.

Hurts New Urbanism movement (3)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 13 years ago | (#225466)

The developer juggernaut has been cranking out tracts of cookie-cutter houses that many don't like, but have to live in because there's nothing else. New Urbanism seeks an alternative that provides for the pedestrian and bicycle. A major way New Urbanists advance their agenda is by promoting "smart codes" to replace existing but antiquated war-era developer codes. Without access to existing codes, there would be no way to loosen ourselves from the death-grip of ugly suburban development.

Copyright 1994-2001 Findlaw (3)

BierGuzzl (92635) | more than 13 years ago | (#225467)

Be careful! start quoting the text of that court case and you might be violatingn a copyright!

Spontaneous Tribute to Douglas Adams: (5)

niekze (96793) | more than 13 years ago | (#225469)

Seriously. Douglas Adam's really hit the head on the hammer. Compare this passage to the copyrighting building codes :)

"But Mr. Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months."

"Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody of anything."

"But the plans were on display..."

On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."

"That's the display department."

"With a flashlight."

"Ah, well the lights had probably gone."

"So had the stairs."

"But look, you found the notice didn't you?"

"Yes, yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard.' "

Re:Reminds me of a .sig I saw here once... (2)

OmegaDan (101255) | more than 13 years ago | (#225471)

What really amazes me is how willing people are to undermine their principles to make a few $$ ...

Even better (2)

11thangel (103409) | more than 13 years ago | (#225472)

Even better, I'll write up a law, copyright it, and get it passed. My law will repeal all copyright laws. Talk about a paradox. ;p And the best part. People won't even know that they don't have to buy a copy of it from me until after they already did.

Write to Congress! (3)

alexhmit01 (104757) | more than 13 years ago | (#225473)

You have a right to know the laws that you live under. In this scenario, you have no ability to follow the law because you can't obtain the law.

Write your Congressmen and tell them that this concerns you as a citizen. Explain that you are a voter (list your address), mention your concern on this issue.

This is a no-brainer win for a Congressman, so they will probably take it up. We are pretty well spread on this site throughout the United States, so we might actually be able to bring this to congressional attention.


Text of fair use provision in US copyright law (3)

yerricde (125198) | more than 13 years ago | (#225485)

just as much as I can copy under fair use?

It depends on how much money you have to give to the judge. Fair use under United States copyright law is defined vaguely by 17 USC 107 [] but severely limited in practice by 17 USC 1201 [] . However, only nine people know what fair use really is [] .

Re:Only in America... (3)

theancient1 (134434) | more than 13 years ago | (#225490)

The next step will be to adopt a pay-per-use scheme for laws. In order to read the laws, you'd have to pay a fee. But since the legal firm would obviously want a cut every time someone was charged with breaking the law, you'd have to pay a licence fee if you were planning to break the law, too.

Man: "Hi, I'd like to buy one 'grand theft auto', please."
Officer: "Okay, that will be $19.95. Hey, wait a just a minute... what are you planning to do with a grand theft auto licence?"
Man: "Well I already have one in my reference library at home, but I wanted to have one for work, too. It's illegal to make a duplicate of a copyrighted work, you know."
Officer: "Very well. Here's you're grand theft auto licence."

Officer: "I'm writing you a ticket for driving over the speed limit."
Woman: "I'm sorry, but I don't have a licence for the speeding law."
Officer: "You don't? Well perhaps I should charge you with copyright infringement instead? Where did you get permission to speed? Did you download an illegal copy of the law from Napster?"
Woman: "I was actually using a GPL'ed version of the speeding law. There is no fine for breaking that one, and it's freely available on the internet."
Officer: "What do you mean, GPL'ed laws?"
Woman: "Well since it's illegal to have a monopoly, the government had to open up the law licencing business to competition. Since the licence fees on your laws were so high, I decided to buy someone else's laws."

James Bond had a licence to kill, didn't he? Maybe they were trying to tell us something.

I guess we're going to have to start trading the text of the legal code on Gnutella.

Bizarre. Simply bizarre. (1)

COAngler (134933) | more than 13 years ago | (#225491)

I'm looking at a statute book on my desk right now. It says "Copyright 2000." It struck me as being just a little odd when I bought it. Odd enough for me to call a lawyer and ask him.

In this one case, the copyright is on this specific compilation with the specific annotations. IOW, it's not just the statutes but also the "value-added" material which makes this copyrightable.

A damn good thing too. Otherwise, when I stop someone for DUI I'll need to write on the summons "42-4-1301 C.R.S., copyright DataLegal Publishing, 2001."

But then, that particular book which is copyright and yet open is my state's criminal and traffic codes, all of which were written by a few hundred people in a shiny dome in Denver. Civil stuff doesn't have the same need to make any sense.

Re:©©© (1)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 13 years ago | (#225498)

Now that would be FANTASTIC!!!!

Copyright the copyright laws----

Refuse to release them.

F*ck people left and right.

God....I would give two testicles, a lung, liver, frontal lobe and all four limbs for that ability.

Re:The Open Source Intellectual Property Project (1)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 13 years ago | (#225499)

This was posted as a joke, but really is not all that terrible of an idea. While it would never, ever, EVER get off the ground, they idea of an organization that attempted to copyright as much as possible (and why not patent everything too), and then release is all under the GPL.

Yup. I like it.

Seems like a job for freenet (1)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 13 years ago | (#225500)

Seriously. The text of the law (from the cd-rom version or what not) should be released on freenet.

If I have the money to buy the cdrom, I would do this myself

I got thirty bucks -- anyone else wnat to through is some change? ;)

Re:How Can this be (3)

BitwizeGHC (145393) | more than 13 years ago | (#225501)

This reminds me of the example, oft-cited in anti-Microsoft arguments, of Ford cars being licensed for use only on Ford roads...

"But i didnt know it was illegal ..." (5)

Srin Tuar (147269) | more than 13 years ago | (#225504)

"... to disseminate copies of the law."

"Sorry kid, ignorance of the law is no excuse."

Ah HA!! (4)

sandidge (150265) | more than 13 years ago | (#225508)

Yes, but by filing their suit, they have violated my patent on assinine bullshit! Caught those bastards red-handed!

Re:Write to Congress! (1)

shanek (153868) | more than 13 years ago | (#225510)

I agree that this whole thing is stupid, but noone is granted a "right" to know the laws that they live under. Find in the Constitution where you're given a right to know the laws. Many legal arguments like this seem to rest on people thinking they have have "rights" that they don't have.

Read the 9th and 10th Amendments. Just because it isn't in the Constitution doesn't mean you don't have the right (9th Amendment). OTOH, if it's not mentioned in the Constitution, it is not a power given to the government (10th Amendment).

The Constitution places restrictions on the government, not the rights of the people.

Not that different from what we have now (3)

shanek (153868) | more than 13 years ago | (#225513)

The only difference between this and the rest of the legal system is the copyright aspect. The complexity of the legal system means that ordinary citizens don't have a chance of understanding them. Even lawyers have to specialize. No one can know all the law, but we're all supposed to follow it.

If you're going to write your Congressman, put it in the form of a "right to understand the law" issue. Not only would that mean free dissemination sans copyright, it would also mean that acts would have to be plainly worded.

The usual rebuttal to this idea is that lawyers and judges could interpret the law in any way they wish. But isn't that the system we have now? The only difference is, regular Joe Blows have to take the word of the lawyers and judges. If the laws were plainly worded, we'd be better able to form opinions on which judges are following the law and which are following their own agenda, and be able to vote the latter out of office.

No, you can't see the rules (3)

Rubyflame (159891) | more than 13 years ago | (#225517)

...but ignorance is no excuse.

Opposite Story in Denver (1)

bigbadbuccidaddy (160676) | more than 13 years ago | (#225518)

Something exactly opposite is going on here in Denver... There's a proposition out that will make the laws available over the Internet. Some groups are fighting it on the grounds that they'll only be available to those with Internet access.

Re:Waaaaaait a second. (1)

Corvidae (162939) | more than 13 years ago | (#225520)

Scary indeed. Thanks for clearing that up.

I think I'm going to hide under my bed now, too. And they say you don't need to be paranoid...

Waaaaaait a second. (2)

Corvidae (162939) | more than 13 years ago | (#225521)

IIRC, isn't everything from government SPECIFICALLY excluded from copyright, as it's all done using the people's money? That applies to state governments, too, who write the building codes...

Unless I'm missing something, in which case, feel free to be good citizens and flame me out the ass for my lack of knowledge. You'll do it anyway, but I'll feel a little better knowing I asked you to and you weren't just being jerks.


In Germany: No. (2)

chirlu (164337) | more than 13 years ago | (#225522)

In Germany there is an explicit legal exception stating that every text passed by the parliament is not protected by copyright laws. Any former rights lapse, and no-one can usurp it anew.

There was in interesting case some years ago when a German publisher of legal texts claimed to posess the exclusive right on certain headings he had added to the penal code; e.g., other publishers should not be allowed to entitle the section on murder "Murder".

The problem was solved then by putting the headings into the official text of the law...

Probably it. (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 13 years ago | (#225527)

Yep, that would probably be it.. original title is "Der Prozess", but trial is more like it in english.


Re:Text of 5th Circuit Decision (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 13 years ago | (#225528)

Oh, so I don't need to know the whole law, just as much as I can copy under fair use? Thanks for clearing that up ;)


Kafka anyone? (5)

Kjella (173770) | more than 13 years ago | (#225529)

So I can't publish what laws I'm living under, because I don't own the copyright? That makes sense, now we just need a legislative body that use them, and we've got a *secret* law. Yep, that's right. Not even a law collection could publish it, if the copyright holders refuse.

Is it just me that has Kafka's "The process" (or whatever the correct english translation is) coming to mind?


Re:Text of 5th Circuit Decision (1)

ameoba (173803) | more than 13 years ago | (#225530)

Stop me if I'm wrong here, but, as part of the case, didn't they have to site the original work, thereby making it PD? Kinda like the situation w/ that one Scientologist document (the Fishman doc?)?

Re:Due Process and the Internet (1)

ameoba (173803) | more than 13 years ago | (#225531)

Seems strikingly similar to a poll-tax.

Isn't This About The TX Legislature Screwing Up? (1)

Furd (178066) | more than 13 years ago | (#225533)

The TechLawJournal [] reference is more extensive than the one cited in the article, giving you access to the opinions and corollary rulings.

All this case should do is remind us that copyright, and intellectual property in general, is a legislative construct, i.e. made up by government institutions to achieve specific ends. To the extent that these ends are not achieved, legislatures change the construction and definition of IP.

For us in the US, Article 1, Section 8, clause 8 of the Constitution dictates that the Congress shall have the power to "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries; "

If we don't like what our legislature's current method for achiving this objective does, then it's up to us to agitate for change.

When we consider that copyright exists to give an economic incentive to publishers to invest in the dissemination of information, it's hard to understand the Veeck v. SBCCI ruling - but it is also true that, if SBCCI invested a great deal in the development of those codes, they should get some kind of economic reward. Did the legislature screw up by incorporating copyrighted materials in legislation without getting rights to that copyright first? Almost certainly! But once again, the onus is on the legislature to dot their i's and cross their t's - and, IMHO, they certainly didn't in this case.

And it'll be up to the citizens of Texas to fix it......

to hell in a ledger-book (2)

SubtleNuance (184325) | more than 13 years ago | (#225541)

Attention Americans:

Do you need more proof your government is being controlled by profit seeking capitalists?

I am astounded.

Well... (2)

bigmaddog (184845) | more than 13 years ago | (#225543)

If the law is copyrighted and it cannot be distributed freely, how the hell are we supposed to know about it? "Sorry Officer, the part of the criminal code about DUI is copyrighted and, being a poor drunk, I can't afford to get access..." That's an exaggeration, but the legal precedent this is setting is, well, stupid.

What about click-wrap? (1)

abuch (205350) | more than 13 years ago | (#225553)

You just purchased and installed a new program. Then comes a dialog box with three choises: 1) Click "Accept", in which case you agree to the conditions of "our" software license. 2) Click "Cancel", in which case the software will be deleted from your hard disk. 3) Type in your credit card number to view the software license at the rate of $10 per minute.

It is valid under the 14th amendment (2)

abe ferlman (205607) | more than 13 years ago | (#225554)

Everyone has an equal opportunity to earn $300 and buy a copy of the code so that they can abide by the laws. This is obviously sufficient to provide for equality under the law. If you're an evil conservative bastard, that is.

Where are the libertarians on this one? Unequal bargaining power doesn't negate a contract, right? Obey the social contract!


This is BEYOND ridiculess. (1)

mfarah (231411) | more than 13 years ago | (#225580)

I don't know about USA, but in my country everyone is supposed to know the law. That's why every new law is published in the "Diario Oficial" (the "official newspaper" - its explicit purpose is exactly that one).

If we accept that a private entity can "own" a law, does this imply that the Diario Oficial must pay a royalty to said entity? If someone violates that law, does the prosecution have to pay such royalty in order to accuse the criminal? And the judge must pay in order to write his finding-of-facts? Does the defense must pay in order to deny the crime being committed? Do the newspapers must pay to reference it in their news report about this?

I think that the judges that upheld this position need to be reminded what the word "law" means.

Death to Vermin.

Just doesn't make sense (1)

Omerna (241397) | more than 13 years ago | (#225585)

If they wanted their laws to be their own, they should have had them printed up in a little (copyrighted) book, not sent them off to the legislature!

If something becomes a law it HAS to move into public domain, because as long as ignorance is not an exuse for breaking the law (suspiciously like my .sig) the public has to be informed of any and all laws (or at least has to be ABLE to be informed).

If this group holds a copyright then the law can't be disseminated properly.

This seems like a common sense thing- you just CAN'T do it- but the way America's legal system works they probably have an illogial leg to stand on.

The Government should buy the copyright (2)

sacremon (244448) | more than 13 years ago | (#225586)

...if they are going to enact it as law. This should be made one of the conditions of a private group writing the guidelines for public law. The government purchases the copyright after the law has been passed (so that they aren't buying every oddball guideline that any thinks up) with taxpayer money, and releases it to the public domain. That way the people who devised the guidelines are reimbursed for their effort, and the public doesn't need to shell out money each time they want to see the guidelines.

Everyone benefits from things like building guidelines, regardless of whether they build a house themselves or not, as any structure they live or work in has to conform, and that benefits them. That justifies the use of public funds to purchase the guidelines.

America, A Screenplay (2)

the real jeezus (246969) | more than 13 years ago | (#225587)

[ Streets of America. Sometime in near future... ]

Cop:"Alright, you're coming with me."
Citizen: [ perplexed ]"What did I do?"
Cop:"I'm sorry, that information is confidential. You'll have to pay the royalty first."
Citizen:"Huh? ..."
[ Sound of handcuffs clasping. ]
Cop:"Okay, how do you plan to pay the Incarceration Surcharge®"
Citizen:"Surcharge? ... I have to pay a surcharge?"
Cop:"Thats what all you whiney pukes say. Do you think the Founding Fathers® died so that you could drain your fellow citizens?..."
[ Beeping sound from Cop's Computer. ]
Cop:"Okay, your sentence just came back from Global HQ® Where We Do Everything Right®". You have been sentenced to 2 years hard labor at T.W.A.D.D.L.E. [] International Labor Center"
Citizen:"But what ever happened to...Freedom?"
Cop:"It's okay, Work Will Make You Free®"

Ewige Blumenkraft!

©©© (1)

J'raxis (248192) | more than 13 years ago | (#225588)

Imagine what would happen if new copyright laws themselves were copyrighted.

my god (1)

Maskirovka (255712) | more than 13 years ago | (#225595)

I guess that the next logical step for these groups would be to claim that the laws are trade secrets and regulate knowledge of them in a similiar fashion. I can't beleive we (USA) have sunk this low.


Only here in America (2)

localroger (258128) | more than 13 years ago | (#225615)

This is absolute bullshit. Legal codes, like unsealed court documents, are in the public domain. It is incredible that not one but two courts have upheld this foolishness.

It doesn't matter how well it is done, how much work went into it, or whatever; once it is a matter of law it is the State's duty to make it as freely available as possible. Otherwise one has the Kafka-esque situation of being required to comply with laws which will only be revealed to you for a price.

government services (1)

Proud Geek (260376) | more than 13 years ago | (#225616)

There is a set of services that government should clearly supply. Making laws is one of them. Sure, people should be able to draft and submit laws, but once there, they should be available for everyone. If a company drafts a law for profit, it should only be as a result of a comission from some other party, and once submitted it should clearly be available for everyone to examine.

This is one of those times that I am truly ashamed to be USian.

Oh yeah? (1)

suwain_2 (260792) | more than 13 years ago | (#225617)

I'm going to patent the process of copyrighting laws and charge them royalties.

Re:How Can this be (1)

ryants (310088) | more than 13 years ago | (#225625)

Well, look on the bright side.

Before the printing press and written law, people could claim ignorance of the law, and that was a defense.

Then the printing press came along, and laws were written down and widely disseminated, and ignorance of the law was no longer a defense.

Now that laws have owners (apparently), we get to go back to step one... since laws can't be freely disseminated, ignorance could become a valid defense again.

Here are two apropos quotes:

  • "History doesn't repeat itself, it rhymes" -- Mark Twain.
  • quid est quod fuit ipsum quod futurum est quid est quod factum est ipsum quod fiendum est nihil sub sole novum -- Ecc. 1:9-10

Ryan T. Sammartino

God's Laws Copyrighted, Why Not Man's? (1)

ryants (310088) | more than 13 years ago | (#225626)

The laws of the god of some 4000 year old nomadic sheep herders, later adopted by most of Europe, are copyrighted [] ...

so hey... if it's good enough for Jehova, it's good enough for some piss-ant Texas town.

Ryan T. Sammartino

Here we... (1)

Dutchy (312061) | more than 13 years ago | (#225627)

..go again. Somebody makes information public that wasn't made public by the originators, and all of /.dom is up in arms! Spend a little more time on the background of the situation please people.

I used to work in road construction, where we also had a 'code' similar to the building code that the article discusses. It is NOT a 'law', but rather a set of standards that contractors must abide with to get paid.

In Ontario (Canada) here the standard is about 4 or 5 inches in height (double sided). The province has invested millions and millions of dollars into research determining the standards that best balance between cost effectiveness, safety, and durability, amongst other reasons. This standard is not only used in Ontario, but has been purchased in whole or in part by other provinces and states.

I'm not suggesting that various levels of government have absolute control over the dispersion of their materials, but there has to be a balance. Surely I should not be permitted to walk into any /.ers office and take the papers of their desk, but at the same time I have the ability to acquire knowledge about any infractions of pollution laws that their company has made.

I guess I'm getting a little off the point; my point is perhaps sometimes government has a right to limit access to their very expensive R&D at times.

Re:need for reorganization (1)

SpeelingChekka (314128) | more than 13 years ago | (#225629)

Sheesh .. and they call the USA "the land of the free"?!?

OK, I know someone's going to reply 'these laws aren't enforced anyway'. But in a properly free country it wouldn't be possible in the first place for such laws to be passed. And what about the entire category of consentual (sp?) crimes? In many states it is still illegal to be gay.

Re:Write to Congress! (1)

SpeelingChekka (314128) | more than 13 years ago | (#225630)

Maybe I'm cynical, but does "writing your Congressman" every really work? I'm pretty skeptical myself. US law seems somewhat rampantly out of control, if you ask me.

Rules of the house (1)

OpenSourced (323149) | more than 13 years ago | (#225635)

1. You can't win.

2. You can't break even.

3. You can't quit the game.


And now, you cannot even know the rules.

(Sorry I forgot to whom belongs the above quote)

the RIAA and the DCMA (1)

Supa Mentat (415750) | more than 13 years ago | (#225641)

Can you imagine what would happen if the RIAA said, "Hey, we basically wrote the DCMA and then lobbied Congress into passing it. It's our law now, nobody can post it anywhere online or publish it except for the Government and us"? We'd all be screwed! The only chance we've got to get the DCMA overturned is if enough people read about it. If they can make distributing copies of it illegal... well, let's just say that this is a scary precedent. How can anyone prohibit the distribution of written law in a democratic republic?

Re:Text of 5th Circuit Decision (1)

CaptainStormfield (444795) | more than 13 years ago | (#225646)

I suspect that the copying in question was not wholesale, but rather copying of limited portions of the work, which would (probably) constitute fair use.

This is not legal advice, and IANAL. If you want legal advice, /. is not the place.

A modest proposal (1)

quarky2 (445397) | more than 13 years ago | (#225647)

To restore some sanity to the production and enforcement of laws: 1) Require all branches of government to post ALL laws and regulations on the Internet, as ignorance of the law is no excuse, and dissemination of law would greatly assist in compliance. 2) Make government subject to all laws and regulations it enacts, be it OSHA rules, Social Security participation, financial reporting, etc. When these two rules are followed, citizens can view government products in all their glory; and governments can feel the effects of their enforcement.

Re:Only in America... (1)

apofex (451729) | more than 13 years ago | (#225655)

you're almost right. They wouldn't sell it. They would license it. "I'm sorry, you have version 2.3 of the code of feudal law. We've upgraded to 2.3.1 and your copy is now non-functional. But, you can 'upgrade' your copy for 18.95 (that's $1 off the cover-price!) and be a law abiding citizen once again"

Re:Credit Reports (1)

apofex (451729) | more than 13 years ago | (#225656)

hmm. even better. I'll just patent/trademark/whatever my Social Security number.

I could own my university within a week.

What the hell? (2)

apofex (451729) | more than 13 years ago | (#225657)

I have an idea. Next time someone gets in trouble with the law. Say you have absolute evidence that proves your innocence. And for the low price of $3.4 million, the district attorney can 'license' your evidence. But, he must sign a 'non-disclosure' agreement and cannot reverse engineer (aka: check the validity of the evidence) and you should patent: "A method for criminal justice procedure that argues against the defendent.", with another $3.4 million 'license' fee. hmm. nevermind, I think amazon already did this.
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