from the you-can't-have-them dept
The story is a bit convoluted, but apparently, Liberia hasn't really had a full copy of its laws, as they were mixed and matched in "incomplete sets" throughout different libraries. A professor at Cornell had begun a (free) project to compile the country's laws, but after he died, a group of lawyers in Liberia took over the project -- and were given $400,000 by the US Justice Department. The lawyers then "numbered, bound, and indexed" all of the recent laws, and claim that because of that, they now own the copyright on it.
While perhaps copyright law is different in Liberia, most places have rejected "sweat of the brow" arguments for copyright. If you didn't create the actual content, you're not supposed to get the copyright. You don't get a copyright just for compiling the work of others without adding anything new. If this lawyer wanted to get paid for the work, he should have negotiated that upfront. Instead, he's holding the country's laws hostage, and asking for $150,000 to $360,000 to turn them over to the government.
What's really amazing is that this guy is currently serving as Liberia's justice minister. The work he did on the laws happened before that, and he claims that he'd give up the laws for free, but that the other lawyers he worked with will not.
Perhaps Liberia should just start from scratch and create all new laws, wiping out the value of these particular locked up laws.