Archivists to Oregon: your laws aren't copyrighted, so there!

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez,
Two days, go Boing Boing ran a story on the deteriorating relations in the fight to free the supposedly copyrighted laws of the great State of Oregon. Well, the situation is definitely at an impasse and June 2 has been set as the date by which this situation is either resolved or we post the full text of all 2005 and 2007 statutes.

Karl Olson of the firm Levy, Ram & Olson LLP, Attorneys, delivered the news on behalf of Justia and Public.Resource.Org when he said:

"My clients respectfully cannot agree to the Public License. First, and most fundamentally, it would require them to acknowledge that portions of the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) are protected by copyright, and they respectfully but vigorously disagree that portions of the ORS are protected by copyright."

So there!

Link (Thanks, Carl!) See also: Oregon continues to insist that its laws are copyrighted and can't be published


  1. Cory! Have you seen your picture in the Wilford Brimley thread? Arkizzle has felificated you.

  2. Don’t get me wrong, but….


    You’re lumping the whole state together by doing that. We am not them, we am us!


    It rhymes with “Washington”, not “Calgon”

  3. Agreed – it is not all of Oregon doing this. It is the representatives of Oregon who are doing this. Let the true voice of Oregon rise up and smite these dull and blunt minded trolls. Please!

    It’s amusing to continue reading about this but it’s also sooooooo disheartening to continually hear about bureaucrats from whatever region or political stripe who continue to abuse their perceived authority in this regard. Knock it off already!

    Oregon. Oregon. Oregon.

    Make them stop!




  4. Let’s see if they waste the Oregon taxpayers’ money by going to court so they can loose.

  5. I wish that all national laws were copyright-free, too. I was looking in to building a replacement brake light for my motorcycle (the stock is dimmer than most cars), but I wanted to make sure it was road-legal. I’ve got access to all the calibrated equipment I need, but the law references a Society of Automotive Engineers publication, and it wasn’t worth $200 to read it – especially since I only need a few pages. It’s probably available at some library (so it’s just a photocopy charge), but it should be freely available.

    I can see why lawmakers do this – they are not professionals in all industries, so they allow SAE or some other professional organization write codes, and the sales of the laws is how they’re paid. But, the should do this “for-hire” so the people retain the laws.

    Paying to a high fee to read a law is one step away from secret laws – a big step, but still a step.

  6. just do what everyone else does and lie, cheat and steal. Either that or grossly overbuild it. Really grossly. Be the first with laser brake lights.

  7. I must thank the brilliant legal tacticians of my home state for once again exposing us to the ridicule of those who know ARAGAWN is somewhere west of Ohio. I am sorry the letter was posted to scribd. I know this is a CC site I should want visit more, but the interface is so wretched I don’t bother. Running documents in an embedded flash player in a little gun-slit window is a deal breaker. The response by Mr. Olson to legal bagels working on my dime however was pitch perfect.

  8. > Be the first with laser brake lights.

    I’ll take 3 thanks. One of them for my motorbike. If the driver behind is already blind / not looking surely using an additional sensory adaptor; by adding say, intense blinding heat, would be an added safety element?

  9. The only possible objection to republishing laws is that there’s an onus on Justia to keep their mirrored version of the statute up to date, or emblazon it with a message like

    “this was the law as of xx.xx.2008 when we took this mirror copy – refer to http:// for an authoritative version”

    Laws shouldn’t published to derive income from the actual text of the law, it’s not their function.

  10. Why don’t you just say you couldn’t tell it was copyrighted, because the copyright legislation was inaccessible due to copyright?

    Gotta love it.

  11. why do you Americans have such problems with the words lose and loose???

    you lose a game…

    you let something loose (release it, loosen a rope)

  12. @2: That’s pretty silly.

    So, when a headline reads, “US asks Canada for better terms in trade agreement,” you think it should read, “Elected representatives of the US ask elected representatives of Canada for better terms in trade agreement?”

    Or, “Hollywood numbers slump” should read, “Numbers for Hollywood film industry slump”?

    You must live somewhere with REALLY wide newspapers.

  13. “[W]hen the authors in question are legally obligated to perform their creative effort, the Patents and Copyright Clause does not authorize a copyright. This is exactly the situation that exists for the work product of public officials. As long as they are not acting ultra vires, they are performing public duties when collecting and assembling information. Even if some of their selection andbarrangement would seem to qualify under the Feist originality test, the creative component of their selection and arrangement does not stem from the economic incentive provided by the copyright law because it is legally mandated and therefore fails to qualify under Feist. Whenever a public duty is the cause of the expression, the incentive justification under the copyrights and patent laws is absent, and any construction of the Copyright Act to protect such official work product would be unconstitutional.” Henry H. Perritt, Jr., J.D. (1995) “Sources of Rights to Access Public Information” 4 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 179 (emphasis added.)

    Perritt details that U.S. states have tried to assert copyright over their government work product, but have failed in every instance.

  14. @#3

    “Agreed – it is not all of Oregon doing this. It is the representatives of Oregon who are doing this. Let the true voice of Oregon rise up and smite these dull and blunt minded trolls. Please!”

    That reminds me of a line from the David Cross album ‘It’s not Funny’:

    “I’m not saying that all Republicans are racist, sexist, homophobes; just the people they to choose to elect into office to represent them are.”

  15. Justia includes this odd copyright notice at the bottom of their page –

    “Copyright © Justia – No copyright claim is made to any of the government data on these pages.”

    Their terms of service also include this gem – “Your use of the Service constitutes your binding acceptance of the TOS, including any modifications that we make.”

    Of course you’ll never know what your binding acceptance includes because “We may modify this TOS at any time without notice to you by posting revised TOS on our sites.”

    Justia, the company Malamud is defending, demand that “By using the Service or any Services, you acknowledge and agree that you have fully read and agree to be bound by the provisions of this Agreement, exactly as if it were printed on paper and signed by you.”

    So now, by reading or searching through Oregon Law you have legally (according to Justia) committed yourself to whatever crazy item they decide to include in their TOS.

    If you do not agree you must “stop using the Justia Web site.” Agree or no law for you!

    Justia also reserves the right to “Restrict, suspend or terminate your access to all or any part of the Service.” Meaning that that are not about making the law open and accessible, but insist that they can control who can, and who cannot read the law.

    And if you want to take Oregon law from the Justia site and put it on your own, you’d better not be running Google ads – “You agree not to reproduce, duplicate, copy, sell, trade, resell or exploit for any commercial purposes, any portion of the Service.” Even though Justia must advertise – “You also understand and agree that the Service may include advertisements and that these advertisements are necessary for Justia to provide the Service.”

    Of course you can’t reproduce it even without commercials because – “information presented to you through the Service or advertisers is protected by copyrights.”

    And for some reason they hate Minnesota – “No services will be provided to residents of Minnesota.”

    So, why is Malamud defending these guys? Why isn’t this simply a suit by Public Resource Org, which seems to have a much stronger case? It seems like having Justia involved could actually harm more than it helps.

  16. So, when a headline reads, “US asks Canada for better terms in trade agreement,” you think it should read, “Elected representatives of the US ask elected representatives of Canada for better terms in trade agreement?”

    Yea, I do. And I don’t subscribe to any papers. We actually have internet out here in Oregon, though sometimes the pully on the semaphore machine sticks.

  17. @#2: As an Oregonian (and a state employee, in fact) I think it’s perfectly appropriate to write “Oregon” in the headline. After all, the legislative counsel is acting on behalf of all Oregonians. If Oregonians don’t want to be associated with this asinine activity on the part of the legislative counsel, they need to contact their representatives in the legislature.

    @#10: I think a good model might be the U.S. Code collection at the Cornell Law School. They have a link on each page to a site which shows you how current the information is.

  18. @10: “The only possible objection to republishing laws is that there’s an onus on Justia to keep their mirrored version of the statute up to date […]”

    One might object to reading out-of-date copies of laws, but how is there any *onus* on the republisher to maintain current copies? Pointing to a current copy or keeping things updated sounds to me like something one might like to have but isn’t required to do.

  19. As an Oregonian, I wish I could say I’m shocked, shocked! I can’t.

    I’ve been fairly active in local and state politics and civics since I moved out here. Recently I testified before the legislature, as part of major civic organization. We wanted to get a copy of the audio for the the club’s files, a digital record. It turns out that, on instructions from the Legislature, the only audio format available was cassette tape.

    The attempt to copyright any public institution’s laws is just nuts. The laws do not belong to the legislature, nor to the executive or judicial branches. They belong to the people of the state.

  20. In my mind, Counsel’s interest is in controlling the number of versions of the statutory compilations, and the information added to the legislative acts. What happens if the lawyers, judges, state agencies, law students, or anyone with a need to keep up with the law no longer have one identifiable standard? Would all the publishers be on the same page, or would differences in published information become problematic?

    There is more information in Counsel’s compilation than just what the legislature enacted. For instance, statutes that become operative later than the compilation have the language before and after the operative date. Would another publisher remember to add it right after the new statute, or would they sell you a pocket part after the new statute is operative?

    Reading the wrong version of the law could have dire consequences for someone. Without some control over the compilation, going about your business could be tricky.

    I use the Oregon Legislature’s online collection of statutes daily. I cut and paste all the time. I’ve never had a call from the Senate wing. [The 2007 statutes were available online before the print versions were out, by the way.] I need to depend on the currency of the information on the website, and I don’t want to double-check whether what I’m looking at is the right compilation. Counsel doesn’t seem to be restricting the public’s access to the laws. It is controlling the way its published, however, and I think given the implications it has every right to do so.

    I would sincerely hope that “rogue archivists” would choose their causes more carefully.

    [I’m not a Counsel employee, but I do work for the state.]

  21. #22 Golpe:

    “The wrong version” of the law and other government works is that which the state is allowed to extort money from you to see.

  22. #22 Golpe: (cont’d)

    Why is putting it on the government agency’s web site not far more than enough control over versioning?

  23. If I was an Oregon citizen I would simply point out that sure, the laws are copyrighted, whatever… *I* am the owner of that copyright along with all other citizens of Oregon. So I can make as many copies as I want.

  24. Well, I am an Oregon citizen, so as (part) owner of that copyright, I hereby release Oregon State Law under an unrestricted Creative Commons license.


    Now it can be accessed, used, republished, etc. by anyone, right?

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