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Thread: US activist faces copyright lawsuit for making Georgia Code public

  1. #1

    Default US activist faces copyright lawsuit for making Georgia Code public

    A US non-profit which campaigns to make statutes, case decisions and government documents freely available to the public, has been sued by the state of Georgia for violating copyright law after distributing an annotated version of Georgia’s code.

    The Public.Resource.Org, founded by an open-records activist Carl Malamud, is being sued for violating copyright after republishing the Official Code of Georgia Annotated , which the state argues is drafted on a paid basis by a third-party legal publisher.

    “This action for injunctive relief arises from Defendant’s systematic, widespread and unauthorized copying and distribution of the copyrighted annotations in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (“OCGA”) through the distribution of thumb drives containing copies of the OCGA. and the posting of the OCGA on various websites,” alleges the legal complaint filed with the court this week.

    In fact, the State says Malamud has been conducting an “18 yearlong crusade” to control the accessibility of US government documents by becoming the “United States’ Public Printer.”

    The state of Georgia does not assert that it is a copyright violation to publish the text of the statutes themselves, “since the laws of Georgia are and should be free to the public.” However, it is the redistribution of “unauthorized derivative works containing the OCGA annotations,” that is making the state believe that Malamud should be liable.

    The prosecution argues that Public.Resource.Org by “re-keying the OCGA” defendant allows to make it “possible for members of the public to copy and manipulate the OCGA, thereby also encouraging the creation of further unauthorized derivative."

    The state believes that each annotation is an “original and creative work of authorship” that is protected by copyrights and owned by the State of Georgia.

    “Without providing the publisher with the ability to recoup its costs for the development of these copyrighted annotations, the State of Georgia will be required to either stop publishing the annotations altogether or pay for development of the annotations using state tax dollars,” the legal document says.

    The State notes that LexisNexis makes the text of the Georgia statutes freely available online at www.legis.ga.gov, and therefore Malamud and his website should not be engaged in distributing the copyrighted material, especially after Malamud ran some crowdfunding campaigns for his non-profit.

    “Defendant’s founder and president, Carl Malamud, has indicated that this type of strategy has been a successful form of ‘terrorism’ that he has employed in the past to force government entities to publish documents on Malamud’s terms,” the civil action lawsuit reads.

    Georgia is seeking to prohibit both the copying and use of its copyrighted material in derivative works. The state also seeks to confiscate the material as well as collect attorney’s fees and costs, as it tries to stop the non-profit's “crusade” to share public information.

    Prior to filing the current lawsuit, back in 2013, the state issued warnings to Malamud and Public.Resource.Org to stop their redistribution activity.

    Replying to original legal threat, Malamoud said that the law belongs to the people and the State has no right to prohibit his organization to share information.

    “It is a long-held tenet of American law that there is no copyright in the law. This is because the law belongs to the people and in our system of democracy we have the right to read, know, and speak the laws by which we choose to govern ourselves. Requiring a license before allowing citizens to read or speak the law would be a violation of deeply-held principles in our system that the laws apply equally to all,” he said in July 2013.
    http://www.rt.com/usa/310720-georgia...right-lawsuit/
    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Paul View Post
    The intellectual battle for liberty can appear to be a lonely one at times. However, the numbers are not as important as the principles that we hold. Leonard Read always taught that "it's not a numbers game, but an ideological game." That's why it's important to continue to provide a principled philosophy as to what the role of government ought to be, despite the numbers that stare us in the face.



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  3. #2

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    LexisNexis is subscription based and quite expensive, effectively barring complete access to the average mundane...

  4. #3

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    ...
    Lawmakers claim putting those “annotations” together amounts to a “creative work” – one which the state has copyrighted.

    “There’s only one law in Georgia – it’s the Official Code of Georgia, Annotated,” Malamud said. “Every act in the Georgia Assembly begins, ‘An act to amend the Official Code of Georgia, Annotated.’”

    The 11Alive Investigators asked to inspect the law books under a measure contained within them – Georgia’s Open Records Act.

    The Legislative Counsel, Wayne Allen, denied our request, suggesting the Law is “available at many libraries.”

    * READ our request and Legislative Counsel Wayne Allen's response

    We had trouble finding the Law at three local public library branches – including the central library in Georgia’s capitol city, mere blocks from the state capitol building.

    There is a set at the public law library directly across from the Georgia State Capitol, but cameras are not allowed inside without an order signed by a judge.

    draft
    The Official Code of Georgia, Annotated or the O.C.G.A. is the official law of the state of Georgia.

    Atlanta’s main library keeps its copies out of sight in a back room, where we had to request special access to photograph the volumes – some copies of which are not close to current at all – and dating back more than six years.

    “It just doesn’t make sense in an internet era to say you need to travel 30 miles to the county seat to look at the 50 volumes of paper, and that’s somehow making the law accessible to you,” said Malamud. “It isn’t.

    The Legislative Counsel wrote that we could purchase the Law for $378 “like anyone else,” but warned us not to publish Georgia laws on 11Alive.com, saying the O.C.G.A. is “copyrighted by the state of Georgia and shall not be reproduced without permission. No permission is granted here.”

    That response reflects every attempt we’ve made to get documents from state lawmakers.

    Transparency means we all get to see government documents from every agency – from the dog catcher to the governor. But the Legislative Counsel always replies “your request is denied” – reflecting a lack of transparency that allows the legislature to do deals under the table because you and I aren’t allowed to see the documents.

    11Alive’s Brendan Keefe asked several Georgia lawmakers if they were aware that the state’s General Assembly was exempt from the state’s own Open Records Act.

    “Were you aware the General Assembly is exempt from the Open Records Act?” Keefe asked Georgia State Representative Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn).

    “I was not,” Pirkle replied. “No.”

    Keefe asked the same question of state Senator Lester Jackson (D-Savannah). “Were you aware that the General Assembly is exempt from the Open Records Act?”

    “I did not know that,” Jackson replied.

    draft
    The Official Code of Georgia, Annotated or the O.C.G.A. is the official law of the state of Georgia.
    But ask to see any documents from a legislator, and you’ll hear from their lawyer – a lawyer your tax dollars are paying for. That’s right. Georgia tax dollars pay Legislative Counsel Wayne Allen to the tune of $125,000 a year so he can turn around and deny your requests to see the people’s records.

    “What’s this about?” asked Georgia state Sen. John F. Kennedy (R-Macon).

    “About transparency, open records, things like that,” Keefe said.

    “I’d rather not – part of my concern is I’m the governor’s floor leader, so I want to make sure that I’m answering questions consistent with what the Administration would want me to, since I don’t know the questions,” Kennedy said. “Now, if you want to give me the questions, I’d be happy to.”

    “So you want the questions in advance?” Keefe asked.

    Here’s how lawmakers avoid questions about their documents – The General Assembly is “not an agency” under its own Open Records Act. The Legislature let itself off on a technicality – one few lawmakers are interested in fixing.

    “If it ever came up for a vote that the General Assembly would be subject to the Open Records Act, would you be in favor of that?” Keefe asked Pirkle – one of the state representatives he spoke with earlier.

    “Um, I’d just have to look at the legislation,” Pirkle replied. “The devil is in the details.”

    Back to Kennedy:

    “We just want to ask you about transparency,” Keefe said.

    “If you want to give me the topic matter, I’d be glad to, but I’ve gotta run in here as well,” Kennedy said.

    And with another state senator – DeKalb County Republican Fran Millar…

    “Ought there to be full transparency – especially when it comes to the people who elected you?” Keefe asked.

    “You know, I think you’ve got a fine line there,” Millar said. “I don’t have an easy answer for that.”

    draft
    The Office of Legislative Counsel is the office that serves as legal counsel for the Georgia General Assembly.

    Neither does the legislative counsel. All communications between the counsel’s office and lawmakers are confidential by law. A staff member in the legislative counsel’s office was not happy with our cameras being present.

    “May I ask what you’re taking a picture for?” a staff member asked.

    “This is a public building,” isn’t it?” Keefe asked.

    “Yeah.”

    When they saw our cameras, legislative counsel staff was sure to draw the blinds – to protect the keeper – and defender – of the legislature’s secrets from public view.

    draft
    The Official Code of Georgia, Annotated or the O.C.G.A. is the official law of the state of Georgia.


    “It’s the people that own the law, and it’s the people who own the legislature,” said Malamud. “We are servants of the people when we are in public service and we just can’t forget that.”Malamud. “We are servants of the people when we are in public service and we just can’t forget that.”

    In July, 2015, State Representative Johnnie Caldwell (R-Thomaston), chairman of the Code Revision Commission, issued a statement regarding the federal copyright lawsuit.

    In that statement, Caldwell points out that the state's copyright on the O.C.G.A. has existed since 1982, and goes on to insist that the publisher of the O.C.G.A., LexisNexis, recieves no monitary payment from the state for producing copies of the Law, but recoups it investment from the copies it sells to the general public. Caldwell says the contractual agreement allows the General Assembly to produce an "official, reliable, updated, and affordable annotated Code, without expending taxpayer funds."

    But back to the current federal copyright lawsuit: In today's internet age, why doesn’t the state just put the law online for free?

    Georgia is the only state in the nation to sue public.resource.org for putting the searchable version of the official Georgia code online. The state of Oregon sent public.resource.org a cease-and-desist letter for placing that state's legal code online, but, then state officials there held hearings before deciding to keep the law online for free.

    The state of Georgia does have a website available with the un-annotated version of the code, but you have to agree to terms and conditions before you can even see it. And, as it is the un-annotated version of the code, it is not the "official" O.C.G.A., that police officers cite during arrests, or courts work from during proceedings.

    The federal copyright suit has hearings later this week.
    http://www.11alive.com/news/investig...-too/197258289
    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Paul View Post
    The intellectual battle for liberty can appear to be a lonely one at times. However, the numbers are not as important as the principles that we hold. Leonard Read always taught that "it's not a numbers game, but an ideological game." That's why it's important to continue to provide a principled philosophy as to what the role of government ought to be, despite the numbers that stare us in the face.



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