Law profs and librarians to Congress: government edicts should not be restricted by copyright

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez, "105 law professors and law librarians have endorsed a call to change U.S. Copyright law to exclude edicts of government. Edicts are "the law" and include all pronouncements of government that are binding on citizens and residents, including statutes, regulations, court opinions, and legally-mandated codes. If ignorance of the law is no excuse, then we must all be able to read, know, and speak the law without restraint. The text of the proposed amendment reads:"

“Edicts of government, such as judicial opinions, administrative rulings, legislative enactments, public ordinances, and similar official legal documents are not copyrightable for reasons of public policy. This applies to such works whether they are Federal, State, or local as well as to those of foreign governments.”

The Edicts of Government Amendment (Thanks, Carl!)


  1. Is “Ignorance of the Law is no excuse”, actually codified in any written law, or is it just something judges like to say?

    1. (Disclaimer: I am really not a lawyer.)  It’s effectively codified in every written law, since most of them don’t provide for “ignorance” as an affirmative defence.

  2. I wonder if this was such a good idea. The way Congress is right now, they’re likely to decide that if a bunch of professors like an idea then they should smash it. Now we’re going to see the Classify the US Code Top Secret Act of 2013.

    The rationale: if ignorance of the law is no excuse, and excuses are bad, then what Americans really need is more ignorance of the law. Builds character.

  3. The fun part is trying to locate the information you want (building code, judicial decision) and figure out how to access it, without paying a hefty fee.  We had a goround about this earlier, where building codes are actually copyrighted by the publisher and are frequently only available for purchase, regardless of the fact that contractors are required to follow them.  I can find most of it, but Joe on the Street will have a painful time trying to determine if he can legally replumb his bathroom himself.

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