Wednesday, November 26, 2008

copyrighting the law: democracy and political economy in action

From Katherine Mangu-Ward in Reason, a blurb on California politicians and their efforts to hide their output...

In California the law is copyrighted. That means it's illegal for citizens to copy or distribute the law of the land among themselves. An official digital copy of the California Code costs $1,556; a printed copy is $2,315. According to the California Office of Administrative Law, the state generates about $880,000 annually by selling its own laws to its own people.

So Carl Malamud, a longtime crusader for openness and transparency in government, decided to take the law into his own hands--literally. He digitally scanned 33,000 pages and posted the entire California Code of Regulations, all 150 pounds of it, at

Malamud says his goal for the next three years is to destroy the idea that law can be copyrighted....By breaking one law, Malamud is hoping to make compliance easier for everyone else.


At November 26, 2008 at 1:22 PM , Blogger Carl Malamud said...

"By breaking the law."

Excuse me, we're not breaking the law at all. The courts have been very clear that there is not copyright that can be asserted over the laws, statutes, court opinions, and other primary legal materials produced by the states or the federal government.

The State of California is incorrect in asserting copyright over these documents.

At November 26, 2008 at 1:49 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Thanks for stopping by!

There is no law or the law is being applied illegitimately-- something that courts would decide.

It sounds like semantics to me although maybe I'm confused.

In any case, I wish you all the best!


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