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

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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  • Remember (Score:1, Informative)

    by captnbmoore ( 911895 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @03:54PM (#29445159)
    He who controls the information controls the people. The only need to claim copyright on laws is to keep people from understanding the laws. If some of these laws were to get out it would probably piss off the people. Just like bupkis's new Health care reform law that fines people 3800 for not having health insurance.
  • by Pinckney ( 1098477 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @03:54PM (#29445165)
    Note that Oregon isn't AFAIK claiming copyright over their laws. The text in question is not the laws, but rather a book to explain the law. However, they can be understood without it.
  • Re:Screw this. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Psyborgue ( 699890 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:17PM (#29445519) Homepage Journal
    Mirror should be completed here [] in an hour or so.
  • by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:18PM (#29445531)

    I know it is spelled out for the Fed, but I'm not sure it is so for the States. Each State is a semi-independant entity, and copyright law may have left that in the hands of each state. This attitude is common in the Constitution.

    Any experts out there that can clarify?

  • by sukotto ( 122876 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:23PM (#29445605)

    There's precedent for this. Gilmore v. Ashcroft ( [] ) shows that the government doesn't even have to let you read the law.
    Copying is a subset of reading. So if they can stop you from reading the law, they can certainly stop you from copying the law.

  • Re:Shoot him. (Score:5, Informative)

    by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:35PM (#29445811) Journal

    Well it's standard legal procedure when reviewing laws to go back and discover the "original intent" of the men who authored the law. Let's see what the authors behind the Second Amendment said about it - "On every question of construction (of the Constitution) let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed." (Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, June 12, 1823)


    "The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed..... for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive. " ---Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution (Philadelphia 1787).

    During the Massachusetts ratifying convention William Symmes warned that the new government at some point "shall be too firmly fixed in the saddle to be overthrown by anything but a general insurrection."

    "O sir, we should have fine times, indeed, if, to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people! Your arms, wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone...Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation...inflicted by those who had no power at all?" and "nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined." - Patrick Henry

    "When the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them." - George Mason

    "And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms....The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants" - future founder of the Democratic Party, Thomas Jefferson in a letter to William S. Smith in 1787

    And last but certainly not least:

    "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people," from the Constitution itself -AND- "Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness" from the 1776 Declaration of Independence

    Aside -

    I'm sorry if these pro-liberty, pro-revolutionary viewpoints are inconvenient for your pro-big-government view. I don't mean offense. I mean to educate.

  • Re:Does not fly (Score:4, Informative)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:51PM (#29446059) Homepage Journal

    It's the law for federal documents. None of them are copyrightable.
    I would be surprised in this would actually hold up in court, or even go to court becasue what started this and the fact that the assistant is involved in a case the AG is trying to cover up. If they take this to court, not only are they likely to lose* but facts about the other case will come out.

    *based on other city agency tnhat ahve to give out public information.
    check out Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)6 []

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

    by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:56PM (#29446139)

    That's funny, because the term originated in England, not France. Y'all only have yourselves to blame for a brief, shamefull period of wanting to be just like the French.

    We Americans generally put the adjective first also, but we frankly don't care all that much one way or another. Besides, the plural of Attorney General, Attorneys General, is just fun to say.

  • by compro01 ( 777531 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:04PM (#29446273)

    All works of the federal government are public domain, but whether the work of state governments are depends on the state's constitution.

  • by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:15PM (#29446411) Homepage

    and I thought all works of government were to be public domain (except classified info)

    Works of Federal government.

  • Re:Remember (Score:3, Informative)

    by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:39PM (#29446749) Journal

    That's nice. Please cite to me which specific power the U.S. Constitution granted to Congress the power to FINE the citizens for failure to buy a product. That power exists at the state level (and even there it's debatable). The power to fine citizens does not exist at the national level.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:53PM (#29446925)

    Guess what? It is not available to the general public. I asked my lawyer, the DMV, and the Ombudsman in Salem; nobody could tell me where to obtain a printed copy of the oregon statutes!

    Fire your lawyer, he's a moron. Goes without saying for DMV.

    The Oregon Legislative Counsel ( sells the official 21 volume set of ORS for $390, or individual sections fro $55 each.

    This took about five minutes to find using Google.

  • by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @10:30PM (#29449585)

    No, the document in question was produced by the Oregon Department of Justice and existed before the current AG took office last January. It's a manual on the Oregon open records and open meetings laws that provides a detailed guide on applying them. It's mostly bought by other state agencies and law firms.

    That said, providing it on-line instead of on paper (the Oregonian article describes it as a "lengthy tome") would be the green way to go.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama