Our favorite rogue archivist Carl Malamud says:
I'm writing to you today with good news! We've transformed the Official Code of Georgia Annotated into beautiful HTML and put it on a github repo.
Some of you may remember that the venerable State of Georgia sued my organization, Public Resource, for having posted the laws of Georgia on the Internet (and they even accused me of a "practice of terrorism" in their complaint!). Well, it took some serious time, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in our favor:
The Copyright Act grants potent, decades-long monopoly protection for "original works of authorship." 17 U. S. C. §102(a). The question in this case is whether that protection extends to the annotations contained in Georgia's official annotated code.
We hold that it does not. Over a century ago, we recognized a limitation on copyright protection for certain government work product, rooted in the Copyright Act's "authorship" requirement. Under what has been dubbed the government edicts doctrine, officials empowered to speak with the force of law cannot be the authors of— and therefore cannot copyright—the works they create in the course of their official duties.
We have previously applied that doctrine to hold that non-binding, explanatory legal materials are not copyright- able when created by judges who possess the authority to make and interpret the law. See Banks v. Manchester, 128 U. S. 244 (1888).
What we get for our yearly subscription is a quarterly CD-ROM for each state that only runs on Windows. You can, with some difficulty, export the titles of the code as Microsoft Word files in .rtf format. Well, we now have 8 quarterly releases of code extracted as .rtf files and hosted on the Internet Archive, with transformations to Open Document format. These .rtf files are not the greatest. Any links have been removed and there is no structure—lists, for example, are not lists, just ordinary paragraphs.
Today, I am delighted to announce that we've taken the next step. Working with my friends at Unicourt and their crack engineering team in Mangaluru, India, we're releasing today a github repository that transforms those .rtf files into beautiful html. The RTF parser is the code that does the transformation. It puts structure, metadata, and accessibility back to the code. Any pointers to other code sections are marked, tables of contents now work properly, and we've tagged references to other resources such as the U.S. Code, Code of Federal Regulations, and other federal and state materials so that over time these will become more and more useful. A second github repository holds the Georgia transforms and over the next year, we're going to be adding Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. We're also hoping to add an xml diff capability, so we can generate redlines. If you just want to browse the html files, you can also view them on the Internet Archive. For example, here is Title 1 of the OCGA, current as of August, 2020. Just for good measure, we also added opinions of the Attorney General and the court rules.
It took 7 years of back and forth and special permission from the Supreme Court of the United States to open this github repo, so we're happy today.
Previously on Boing Boing:
- 2015-07-24: Georgia sues Carl Malamud, calls publishing state laws "terrorism"
- 2015-09-19: Countersuit: Georgia can't copyright its laws
- 2019-05-14: The New York Times on Carl Malamud and his tireless battle to make the law free for all to read
- 2019-10-24: Public domain scores a huge appeals court victory: the law cannot be copyrighted (UPDATED)
- 2019-12-03: The Supreme Court just heard the State of Georgia's argument for copyrighting the law and charging for access to it