May 17, 2019

GOVERNMENT AS RACKET: Accused of ‘Terrorism’ for Putting Legal Materials Online.

Carl Malamud believes in open access to government records, and he has spent more than a decade putting them online. You might think states would welcome the help.

But when Mr. Malamud’s group posted the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, the state sued for copyright infringement. Providing public access to the state’s laws and related legal materials, Georgia’s lawyers said, was part of a “strategy of terrorism.”

A federal appeals court ruled against the state, which has asked the Supreme Court to step in. On Friday, in an unusual move, Mr. Malamud’s group, Public.Resource.Org, also urged the court to hear the dispute, saying that the question of who owns the law is an urgent one, as about 20 other states have claimed that parts of similar annotated codes are copyrighted.

The issue, the group said, is whether citizens can have access to “the raw materials of our democracy.”

As Rob Merges and I wrote some time ago, the copyright power (along with the patent power) has been stretched far beyond its original purpose.

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