Oregon: our laws are copyrighted and you can't publish them

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez,

The State of Oregon is sending out cease and desist letters to sites like Justia and Public.Resource.Org that have been posting copies of Oregon laws, known as the Oregon Revised Statutes.

We've sent Oregon back two letters. The first reviews the law and explains to the Legislative Counsel why their assertion of copyright over the state statutes is particularly weak, from both a common law perspective and from their own enabling legislation.

The position of the Legislative Counsel is that their public access obligations have been fulfilled by their web site. However, their web site has over 500,000 HTML errors, does not meet Section 508 accessibility requirements, has no metadata, as our second letter points out.

Particularly galling is the fact that Thomson West has also made a copy of these statutes and has done so without a commercial license, but the Legislative Counsel explicitly told Tim Stanley of Justia that they weren't going to send cease and desist letters to West. Evidently, it is much easier to pick on the little guys.

Oregon is not unique in asserting copyright over state law, but they are definitely one of the more aggressive in this kind of FUD campaign. Justia and Public.Resource.Org have decided this is an important issue to resolve and we're going to hold firm on this. Anybody else who is making a mirror of the Oregon law should drop me a line and let me know.


(Thanks, Carl!)