From The New York Times:
No one owns the law, because the law belongs to everyone. It’s a principle that seems so obvious that most people wouldn’t give it a second thought. But that’s what is at issue in Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, a case about whether the State of Georgia can assert copyright in its annotated state code. This week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in its next term.
Americans deserve free and easy access to public records of all kinds, including court documents. But access to the law is the most important of all: Democracy depends on it. Keeping the law free of copyright is the first step.
If the law is confused, it is in part thanks to the Supreme Court, which handed down two rulings on the subject in 1888. One stated that the law is in the public domain, and the other said that compiling the law with a table of contents, summaries and an index could be copyrightable. It’s this latter case that the State of Georgia relies on.
The modern-day outsourcing of regulations to the private sector makes this issue all the more important to take up anew. If the law belongs to anyone, it belongs to the people. After a hundred or so years of confusion, the Supreme Court now has the chance to affirm this principle of self-governance.
Read the Complete Editorial (588 words)
See Also: Center For Democracy & Technology: “Paywall to Georgia’s State Legal Code a Broad Misapplication of Copyright Protections” (May 25, 2017)