It seems like a given that the public should have easy access to any laws that govern it. But as digital technology has redefined what constitutes access and ease, the idea has become increasingly complicated.
This debate was at the center of a recent court ruling that questioned whether technical standards created by private entities and incorporated into law can be copyrighted. The answer, as passed down by a U.S. District Court, was indeed they can, and anyone who subsequently posts them online is committing a copyright violation.
This ruling was issued Thursday, Feb. 2 by U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of Washington, D.C., in a lawsuit brought against Public.Resource.Org, a site dedicated to the promotion of free municipal, state and federal legal codes. The plaintiffs in the case were a group of standard development organizations responsible for underwriting technical standards about building safety, product specifications and other consumer interests.
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