Oregon Copyrights Laws Tells Public You Can’t Have Them!


Last week John Wonderlich posted about the ongoing story of the GAO giving exclusive rights to digitalize legislative histories to Thomson West on the Open House Project blog. The government entering a deal with a private company and giving them exclusive rights to public documents creates a situation where the whole point of digitalization is lost. When large amounts of documents are available on the internet in easy to download formats it’s supposed to increase public access but this situation has the opposite effect. Unfortunately this problem isn’t exclusive to the federal government.

Via Boing Boing and Carl Malamud,

“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.”

Malamud goes on to state that Thomson West has also made copies of these statutes but haven’t received cease and desist letters from Oregon yet (it was stated that West will be receiving letters). Apparently many states have laws that are copyrighted and this begs the question of how appropriate this kind of copyrighting in an internet age is. How can a law that was written for the purpose of serving the general public not be available to them to reproduce?