One Simple Copyright Reform Idea: Government Edicts Should Never Be Subject To Copyright

from the should-be-a-no-brainer dept

With copyright reform back on the table, there are bound to be more and more discussions and various ideas suggested. But here's one that we hope is a no brainer for everyone. Carl Malamud, who has worked on making more public information available to the public than anyone else (and, yes, it's crazy that he needs to do this), has famously highlighted many cases of governments locking up key information that the public ought to have, including official copies of laws, judicial rulings and the standards that are referenced by various laws. So he has now proposed -- with the support of a bunch of big thinkers in this arena -- a simple proposal for one specific type of copyright reform: The Edicts of Government Amendment. The idea is simple:
To promote access to justice, equal protection, innovation in the legal marketplace, and to codify long-standing public policy, the Copyright Act of the United States, 17 U.S.C., should be amended as follows:
“Edicts of government, such as judicial opinions, administrative rulings, legislative enactments, public ordinances, and similar official legal documents are not copyrightable for reasons of public policy. This applies to such works whether they are Federal, State, or local as well as to those of foreign governments.”
This language comes directly from Section 206.01, Compendium of Office Practices II, U.S. Copyright Office (1984). It reflects clear and established Supreme Court precedent on the matter in cases such as Wheaton v. Peters, 33 U.S. (8 Pet.) 591 (1834) and Banks v. Manchester, 128 U.S. 244 (1888). The law belongs to the people, who should be free to read, know, and speak the laws by which they choose to govern themselves.
Such a basic concept, I'm wondering if there's anyone who will present a counter argument for why this shouldn't be done today.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 2:56pm

    Crazy to think that someone has to make a law for this?

    It is beyond crazy to think that someone has to put this in to law for us to be able to access the information in which we are required to follow.

     

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  2.  
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    average_joe (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 3:13pm

    Such a basic concept, I'm wondering if there's anyone who will present a counter argument for why this shouldn't be done today.

    Sure. We talked about one scenario a few months ago: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130223/02505322081/sheet-metal-air-conditioning-contractors-use-b ogus-copyright-takedown-to-block-publication-federally-mandated-standards.shtml

    If someone has a copyrighted work and an administrative agency adopts it as a standard by reference, that doesn't thrust the work into the public domain.

    My post in that thread: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130223/02505322081/sheet-metal-air-conditioning-contractors-use-b ogus-copyright-takedown-to-block-publication-federally-mandated-standards.shtml#c920

    Now you go.

     

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  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, May 16th, 2013 @ 3:19pm

    Are YOU for this, Mike? Cause, this sounds like a HOPE:

    "Such a basic concept, I'm wondering if there's anyone who will present a counter argument for why this shouldn't be done today."

    Or are you after fifteen years nailed down on these two points?
    1) Copyright system is broken.
    2) Government Edicts Should Never Be Subject To Copyright.

    It's both serious and sarcastic question. The reason (to justify my snark to any newbies) is your prior pusillanimity here:
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130121/14473121743/global-hackathons-prepared-to-carry-for ward-work-aaron-swartz.shtml#c377

    I think that the current system is broken and does not promote the progress,as it should do. I think that I don't know what the *proper* solution is, andI don't think anyone does, because we simply don't have enough data orexperience to know. We know what doesn't work, but we don't know what mightwork better. That's why I've always encouraged more exploration and theability to experiment.

    This will upset you, of course, because it's not a hard and fast position of"copyright must be x."

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 3:21pm

    But...

    But Government and the judiciary need copyright to encourage them to innovate...

     

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  5.  
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    TheLastCzarnian (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 3:37pm

    Re:

    Then said administrative agency cannot simply adopt it by reference: it must create its own standard. Note that lists and catalogs are not copyrightable material, so it should be a simple matter to "repackage" the standard into one which can be easily entered into the public domain.

     

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  6.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 3:45pm

    Re:

    That's different than a government edict. The government isn't publishing the material, merely accepting it as the standard. It wouldn't become public domain or controlled by the government.

    At the same time, there's no reason the government couldn't purchase the copyright of privately held works and make it public domain as a way of setting standards.

     

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  7.  
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    Chosen Reject (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 4:01pm

    Re:

    Easy. No one should ever have to pay money to find out what laws/rules/edicts they have to obey. Given that, you can either remove the copyright from the standard or grant a free-to-publish license to that standard. Done (unless you feel that charging for access to laws is valid).

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 4:53pm

    "One Simple Copyright Reform Idea: Government Edicts Should Never Be Subject To Copyright"

    One Simple Copyright Reform Idea: Government ELITISTS Should ALWAYS Be Subject To Copyright.

    There fixed your grammar mistake.


    If elitists are subject to copyright they can not reproduce.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 5:02pm

    Re: Re:

    Edict makes me think of Roman Law: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Praetor%27s_Edict

    But I think in general it means a proclamation of law. I'd say that administrative law is a governmental edict. Besides, Malamud is the same person that was the subject of that article. By the way, I checked on PACER and he won that case against the Sheet Metal folks--they never responded to the lawsuit so they defaulted just last week.

     

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  10.  
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    Jay (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 5:13pm

    Re: Crazy to think that someone has to make a law for this?

    It's just crazy enough to work but this would solve a LOT of problems...

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 6:17pm

    Pfffft!

    Unfortunately they (those in power) will give this the same due consideration they currently give the whistle blower, FOIA, and the constitution itself. None.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2013 @ 1:37am

    'Such a basic concept, I'm wondering if there's anyone who will present a counter argument for why this shouldn't be done today.'

    if it means there will be a possibility of someone, somewhere perhaps losing out on payments of some sort, how big a list do you want?

     

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  13.  
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    Richard (profile), May 17th, 2013 @ 1:58am

    Re:

    If someone has a copyrighted work and an administrative agency adopts it as a standard by reference, that doesn't thrust the work into the public domain.

    The administrative agency should NEVER do this - because it is clearly an act of favouritism.

    So, by preventing such corruption this new law would have an extra benefit!

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2013 @ 5:36am

    Re:

    um, if someone is going to be held to the standard, then yes, it should be public domain.

     

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  15.  
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    Ninja (profile), May 17th, 2013 @ 7:35am

    Re: Re:

    Agreed. It's double the truth if it's mandatory.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2013 @ 9:52am

    Re: Are YOU for this, Mike? Cause, this sounds like a HOPE:

    You make no sense. The one does not lead in any way to the other. I realize that communication isn't easy for you, but try to expand upon your thoughts enough that others can follow your leapfrogging.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Justanyone (profile), Jan 14th, 2014 @ 8:42pm

    WHITEHOUSE.GOV PETITION LAUNCHED

    Okay, so I created a petition for this on whitehouse.gov.

    Link is here: http://wh.gov/lInfx

    -- Kevin J. Rice

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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