All Your Law Are Belong to Us

If you need any further evidence that politicians consider themselves our masters rather than public servants, read this from Cory Doctorow:

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....

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.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse -- but we will only tell you what we want you to know.  How anyone can consider the text of public laws not to be in the public domain is amazing to me.


  1. Jim Collins:

    The thing is that if the text of laws were made public, then people would know what the law is. This would make it very hard on some government entities to claim a violation or to get away with something.

  2. John O.:

    That reminds me of the Arizona Revised Statutes CD you can buy. It costs a normal citizen $15 for "non-commerical use," yet it costs $4000 for corporate users who resale published copies of the ARS. There really is no basis for the gross cost disparity other than the Secretary of State wants to make up some of the costs of producing the CD and then some.

    -- John O.

  3. markm:

    In many places, the building codes are copyrighted. That is, rather than placing thousands of pages of codes into the law, the law just says to follow a particular edition of a model code published by a private organization. Thus you have a law that you can only stay in compliance with by buying a book copyrighted by a private organization.