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Professor Posts "Illegal Copy" of Guide To Oregon Public Record Laws 318

Posted by timothy
from the hey-man-I-paid-for-that dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Copyright law has previously been used by some states to try to prevent people from passing around copies of their own government's laws. But in a new level of meta-absurdity, the attorney general of Oregon is claiming copyright over a state-produced guide to using public-records laws. That isn't sitting well with one frequent user of the laws, who has posted a copy of the guide to his website and is daring the AG to respond. The AG, who previously pledged to improve responses to public-records requests, has not responded yet." The challenger here is University of Oregon Professor Bill Harbaugh.
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Professor Posts "Illegal Copy" of Guide to Oregon Public Record Laws

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  • by afidel (530433) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @03:52PM (#29445131)
    How can the law which every citizen expected to comply with be allowed to exist under Copyright? How can keeping us from copying the law possibly be an advancement of the sciences and useful arts? Once it becomes law it is no longer a creative work and is now a fact, a fact which is by its very nature that which least deserves to be kept from the public.
  • by ZekoMal (1404259) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @03:55PM (#29445169)
    This is part of the massive conspiracy to eventually make all citizens criminals by default. To alleviate the problem, all citizens will have to go to some form of re-education at a young age to receive a certificate that deems them non-criminals. Or something. Really, I think it's just a way for them to say we're all law-breakers, then not let us see what law it is. Our Kangaroo Courts will throw more people into jail faster if you remove the "why" part of "Guilty!".
  • Shoot him. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @03:57PM (#29445203) Journal

    Huh. That subject line just popped-up automatically in Firefox. That's kinda scary. ----- Anyway normally I'd say "fire the employee" but since there's no way for the citizens to fire Oregon's General Attorney, the only other option is to exercise the Founders' Constitutionally protected right to revolt. (amendment two)

    As the founder of the Democractic Party observed: "When the people fear government, there is tyranny. When the government functionaries fear the people, then there is liberty." - Thomas Jefferson

  • by Shagg (99693) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @03:58PM (#29445223)

    I thought the government wasn't allowed to hold a copyright. Content that is created by the government (IE, with public funding) is automatically public domain. That's spelled out in copyright law, isn't it?

  • by bennomatic (691188) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @03:58PM (#29445233) Homepage
    I read that book. Something about a new testimony or something. What I learned is that we're all sinners.
  • by skine (1524819) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @03:59PM (#29445235)

    Instead of paying $25, which helps to recoup the costs of making a book that's almost exclusively used by law firms, or possibly directly challenging the validity of the copyright in court, he takes the passive-aggressive route and posts copyrighted material on the internet for free.

    Whether he happens to be right or wrong, there's no way he's going to win.

  • Of course... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Stenchwarrior (1335051) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @03:59PM (#29445239)
    ..he doesn't want people to know how to use the laws. They wouldn't need to pay a lawyer if such information was made public, right?
  • Does not fly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mollog (841386) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:00PM (#29445257)
    Nope, not buying it. Especially if it pertains to public policy. Any legal description, guide, index, or other derivative document of law should, by its implied use, be public domain.
  • by samcan (1349105) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:00PM (#29445261)

    U.S. government works are automatically public domain. Shouldn't state government materials be the same way?

    The latest absurdity to come out of my home state. (The first was yesterday [slashdot.org].) And I thought Kroger was a good guy, for a Democrat.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:06PM (#29445339) Journal

    Even if I bought your explanation, the book was produced by Oregon taxpayers so it the copyright holder is *them* not the AG who is just an employee of the taxpayer. QED the book should be freely-copyable by the people who paid the bill (Oregonians).

  • Re:Shoot him. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:08PM (#29445369) Homepage

    Huh. That subject line just popped-up automatically in Firefox. That's kinda scary. ----- Anyway normally I'd say "fire the employee" but since there's no way for the citizens to fire Oregon's General Attorney, the only other option is to exercise the Founders' Constitutionally protected right to revolt. (amendment two)

    The attorney general of Oregon is an elected position. So he can be voted out of office at the next election. Even if the position were not elected but appointed one could vote out of office the governor who appointed him. Also, the second amendment never gives you any Constitutionally protected right to revolt. It gives a right to keep arms.

  • by NotBornYesterday (1093817) * on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:09PM (#29445373) Journal

    passive-aggressive

    Or you could call it civil disobedience. He is deliberately calling out the AG so he can hopefully win without the trouble, time, and expense of a court fight.

  • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:14PM (#29445445)

    He is posting a copyrighted guide to the laws.

    Which was paid for by the taxpayers. Why is it copyrightable again?

  • by JesseL (107722) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:25PM (#29445623) Homepage Journal

    "Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get It straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against - then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it.

    There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

    Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted - and you create a nation of law-breakers - and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Resrden, that's the garrie, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with."

  • Re:Does not fly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:29PM (#29445695)

    Nope, not buying it. Especially if it pertains to public policy. Any legal description, guide, index, or other derivative document of law should, by its implied use, be public domain.

    You are welcome to lobby Congress to incorporate that radical provision into copyright law, but I don't think its going to fly. If you restrict it to those when "created by a public entity", you might have a tiny bit better luck, as without that your proposal would deny copyright to privately written legal texts, etc. (Anyhow, rather than exceptions to copyright to the work based on its "implied use", why wouldn't you just create an exception to the exclusive rights of copyright based on the actual use as, essentially, an extension to the existing Fair Use rule? That seems to me to be more sensible.)

    But, at any rate, that's not the law as it stands, so even granting (for the sake of argument only) that your proposal ought to be the law, it isn't the law, and so isn't a convincing argument for why this work would be outside the scope of copyright under the law today.

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:44PM (#29445929)

    Instead of paying $25, which helps to recoup the costs of making a book that's almost exclusively used by law firms, or possibly directly challenging the validity of the copyright in court, he takes the passive-aggressive route and posts copyrighted material on the internet for free.

    Usually, you don't have standing to challenge a claim of copyright in court unless (these are illustrative rather than exhaustive):
    (1) You are the actual creator of the work, and the claim of copyright is itself therefore an actionable violation of your rights, or
    (2) The purported copyright holder is suing you for violating the copyright, and you are interposing the invalidity of the copyright as a reason you shouldn't be held liable.

    "Someone else made a bogus claim of a legal right" is not, generally, itself a cause of action on which you can prevail in court. If it were, the courts would be even more clogged than they are now.

    What you call the "passive-aggressive" route -- violating a right that someone claims they have and challenging them to enforce it -- is a common way of challenging a legal claim, since it puts the person making the claim in the position of publicly backing down or filing a suit in which you can challenge the validity of the claim.

  • by serbanp (139486) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:55PM (#29446129)

    So you think that a SMART and a Hummer should be taxed the same for the same odo reading?

    The Per-Mile Road Toll system, if used without considering the car weight (which directly influences the road wear), is a stupid one. At least the gasoline tax implicitly takes this into account both the miles driven and the car weight.

  • by Hatta (162192) * on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:29PM (#29446615) Journal

    The government can have it any way they want. They are after all the ones with the guns.

  • Re:Remember (Score:3, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:51PM (#29446895) Journal

    >>>I'm all for allowing people to self-insure provided...

    Fortunately I'm not a slave, and you are neither my master nor my king, so your opinion although welcome, will be ignored. I will follow my own path in life as a freeman (aka liberated person).

  • by painandgreed (692585) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:53PM (#29446939)

    And I thought Kroger was a good guy, for a Democrat.

    There are no good guys in politics. They merely use those labels to cut down the number of people yelling at them by half.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:58PM (#29446987) Homepage Journal

    The problem with the line from Atlas Shrugged is that Ferris (like almost all of Rand's antagonists) is cartoon Evil. Evil that knows it's Evil. Evil that spends all day twirling its mustache and saying, "Look how Evil I am!" But that's not how real evil works.

    Real evil thinks it's good. Real evil says, "We need this law to protect (whatever)" -- and believes it. In regards to this particular discussion, real evil believes that putting every single thing ever committed to disk, paper, parchment, or clay tablets under perpetual copyright is a positive good, and it regards anyone who disagrees with it as -- that's right -- evil.

    Yes, of course the final effect of passing laws to "protect" everything imaginable is a nightmare of labyrinthine and often mutally contradictory laws, such that everyone is a criminal. But no one ever intends for it to work that way. And if you expect the people who create this situation (which ultimately would be We, the People) to have such transparent and cartoonish motivations, to be so obviously and blatantly Evil, then you will have no idea how to deal with real evil when it presents itself.

  • by Clandestine_Blaze (1019274) * on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:59PM (#29446999) Journal

    U.S. government works are automatically public domain. Shouldn't state government materials be the same way?

    I agree - anything I produce while on the clock at work enters a murky domain where the people paying me can claim that they are the new owners. Any work done on taxpayer funds should belong to the public. At any rate, Oregon is not gaining anything by copyrighting their "Guide to Oregon Public Record Laws".

  • by reboot246 (623534) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:02PM (#29447047) Homepage
    And nowadays the Federal government isn't even writing the laws. Special interests write the bills, and Congress votes yea or nay without reading the bills.
  • Re:Does not fly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @07:14PM (#29447957)

    It's the law for federal documents. None of them are copyrightable.

    But not because the logic you posited in GGP regarding "implied use" is incorporated law, but because federal government works themselves are expressly and specifically excluded from copyright.

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @07:21PM (#29448017)

    Even if I bought your explanation, the book was produced by Oregon taxpayers so it the copyright holder is *them* not the AG who is just an employee of the taxpayer. QED the book should be freely-copyable by the people who paid the bill (Oregonians).

    That makes about as much sense as saying that if you own a share of Microsoft stock, Microsoft can't enforce its copyrights against you, since the employee (even if an executive) attempting to do so on behalf of the corporation is really just your employee.

    There is nothing saying that the people of the State of Oregon, through the mechanism they have elected for self-government, couldn't adopt a policy that directs that all state citizens are automatically granted royalty-free licenses to all state-owned copyrights for all purposes so long as they remain citizens of the State. But, as far as I can tell, they have not chosen to do so.

  • Re: Obama Care (Score:4, Insightful)

    by danknight (570145) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @09:21PM (#29449125)
    I don't care if you're left or right health care 'reform' was one of Obama's main election platforms so I think ObamaCare is a fitting term.
  • by riverat1 (1048260) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @10:18PM (#29449509)

    You don't think we should pay the full real cost of what we consume? Someone pays and sooner or later we'll all end up paying one way or another.

  • by Lurking Zealot (716714) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:04PM (#29449801)

    And I thought Kroger was a good guy, for a Democrat.

    There are no good guys in politics. They merely use those labels to cut down the number of people yelling at them by half.

    Oh, of course.

    And there are no fair-minded people on slashdot. They merely use absurdly broad generalizations instead of reason.

    Modded insightful?

    And no, I'm not new here.

  • by qc_dk (734452) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @05:37AM (#29451645)
    I don't believe that Real Evil(tm) always believe what it does is all good. It might think that in the end the result will be for the best. But not that all it's actions are good. Why did the Nazi try to keep the death camps secret, why did they invite Red Cross observers to special camps where the conditions where much better? Of course it will always try to project the image of respectability and goodness.

    I see Dr. Ferris as Ayn Rand's comment on the russian leadership at the time, which had basically given up the pretense of being good, of trying to create the workers paradise. If Dr. Ferris is cartoon evil then it was because Stalin was cartoon evil. If you said something disparaging about a member of the party's wife's dress off to the Gulag. Did your people have cultural ties to non-Soviet nations, then you were moved thousands of miles to lessen the risk of rebellion.

    My problem with Atlas Shrugged is that I don't understand the gold fetish of her utopian society. Her utopia is only interested in the extrinsic value of the work people could do, but gold is basically worthless it has very few industrial uses. I might have understood if she had chosen steel. It is as if she wanted some indestructible, eternal, fixed value to assign to work. That's not possible there are no intrinsic, eternal values. My work as a computer programmer/scientist is valuable to modern society, but worthless if there was a famine and i was need to work the fields. But, I believe that is a point that Frank Herbert makes much better than i ever could.
  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Thursday September 17, 2009 @09:45AM (#29452877) Journal
    Not defending Ayn Rand here (haven't read the books, and the reviews and bits that I have read aren't encouraging me to), but cartoon evil is real, and common. It can be found in bad neighborhoods and seedy used car dealerships. People who know they are harming others but do it for personal gain. The only difference between IRL cartoon evil and Snidely Whiplash is that the former is in it for the money and the latter just wants to ruin Dudley Do-Right's day.

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