EFF fights lawsuit over publishing secret, expensive-to-see laws


32 Responses to “EFF fights lawsuit over publishing secret, expensive-to-see laws”

  1. elix says:

    Ignorance of the law is no excuse, but what about poverty? (Wait, debtors prisons are basically coming back. Never mind.)

  2. ldobe says:

    It’s sickeningly outrageous that there’s ANY law that requires money to be viewed.  That’s so anti-democratic as to be totally broken.

    If the law can’t be freely accessed and read, then the government has absolutely no right using it in prosecution.

  3. Pheck Phul says:

    Right on! No one should be legally obligated to look at money.

  4. Carl Malamud says:

    If you want to follow this case, here’s the docket on the Internet Archive:


  5. Kimmo says:

    Ignorance of the law is no excuse

    Tell you what, I’d say that if you have to pay money to know the law, then it bloody well is.

  6. L_Mariachi says:

    Wouldn’t prosecuting someone for violating a copyrighted law or code lead to the text being read in the courtroom and thus entered into the public record?

    Similarly, could a sympathetic Congressman enter the text into the Congressional Record, which is also public? (And you don’t even have to read it out loud on the floor, you can say “please enter this document into the Record.”)

    • mccrum says:

      Codes change every two years or so and depending on when you started your project you might actually be using a code several years old.  And then the electrical code isn’t the same book as the stair code, or the fire exit code, or the materials code.  Multiply that times fifty states and it starts to add up rather quickly and more often than that Congressman is going to get reelected.

  7. lafave says:

    Ignorance of the law can be an excuse – if the law requires knowledge that the act is illegal.

    A good-faith misunderstanding of the law or a good-faith belief that one is not violating the law negates willfulness, whether or not the claimed belief or misunderstanding is objectively reasonable.

    US v Cheek

    See also, Lambert v. California

  8. Lag bert says:

    A large number of codes and standard are developed by nongovernmental organizations that use the purchase price of standards and members’ dues to pay for the development and maintenance of said standards.

    The number of individuals and organization that use some of these standards are limited, so the cost of development and maintenance is spread over a small user base resulting in a high per standard price.

    That said..

    Personally I believe, if an NGO developed standard is adopted by a government and compliance with the standards is mandated by law, the government should be required to pay the necessary licensing fees to purchase and place the standard in the public domain.

    • euansmith says:

      And that, sir, is why you are not allowed anywhere near the pork barrel.

      • Lag bert says:

        So you would prefer the government take someones work without compensation? Intellectual property is property and therefore subject to the laws of eminent domain. If you are suggesting standards developed by NGOs be made public domain without just compensation you are suggesting throwing out the 4th Amendment.

  9. Red Monk says:

    Standards are just the way something “should be done” While Codes are Law.

  10. msbpodcast says:

    Laws are how we choose to live together.

    They are also how we can protect ourselves.Laws that are not accessible to all and not laws.They are arbitrary and capricious mechanisms of enforcement.

    Laws that you can’t check, regardless of the reason, cost or secrecy, are instruments to subjugate you, blindfold you and screw you.

    If you get something built you have to trust that you’re up to code but I trust no one because if my house burns down, I’m the one stuck with the consequences.

    • mccrum says:

      Your last paragraph is exactly how it should be.  If you want to trust your electrician for following the NEC, right now you have no other choice unless you spend more than you do on the electrician to look at the code.

  11. Bob Dinitto says:

    This is absurd on its face. How can US government standards be copyrighted? It’s a contradiction.

    • mccrum says:

      Because, for example, the National Electric Code (NEC) isn’t itself a law.  However, states and municipalities have made following the NEC a law.

      So the code isn’t a law, just following it is.

      • Carl Malamud says:

         Actually, the NEC is indeed a law in many jurisdictions. What government do is “incorporate by reference” a model code like the NEC so that the entire text of the document becomes part of the administrative code of a particular state or the Code of Federal Regulations. Search for “national electrical code” and “incorporated by reference” and you will see many examples.

  12. James Penrose says:

    If the materials were developed with private sector money and then incorporated into the law, the government should either exercise eminent domain and make the info public or recompense the trade association for the reasonable value of the info and make it public.

    If public money was used to fund the development, we shouldn’t even be having this discussion.

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