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Submission + - City laws only available via license (timesunion.com) 2

MrLint writes: The City of Schenectady has decided that their laws are copyrighted, and that you cannot know them without paying for an "exclusive license" for $200. This is not really the first time things of this nature has occurred, Oregon has claimed publishing of laws online is a copyright violation (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2008/04/oregon-publishing-our-laws-online-is-a-copyright-violation.ars). As the internet continues to make inroads as the primary, or sole source of information for people, will we end up with a society where all the laws are behind a paywall? Will the inability to find out the law become a reasonable defense?
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City laws only available via license

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  • Amendmant Time (Score:2, Interesting)

    by The Raven ( 30575 )

    I find it moderately surprising that our constitution does not have a 'secret laws' provision. I just skimmed through it again, and found no such restriction. We have specific injunctions against using ignorance of a law as grounds for flaunting it, but no guarantee of unrestricted access to laws.

    Is this because the thought of a secret law was unthinkable 200 years ago, or because there exist valid reasons to have secret laws? I personally find the thought abhorrent, but stranger things exist.

    The solution,

  • Building codes are also often protected by copyright. I ran across this in New York State a number of years ago and had the same reaction - how can laws passed by an elected body representing the citizens be copyrighted? Beyond the basic question of how we are supposed to abide by laws that are not in the public domain, there is the question of how copyrighted laws "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts," which according to the Constitution is the whole point of copyright.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"