Hearing details
Thursday, June 19
10:30 AM
Hearing Room A
State capitol, Salem

This Thursday, the Oregon Legislative Counsel Committee (LCC) will be holding a hearing that should be of major interest to anyone with an interest in Oregon law, and in building (or using) public resources on the Internet. The topic: whether or not the laws that we, the people of Oregon write are in the public domain, or whether the State can prevent their republication by insisting on licensing arrangements.

A couple months back, the LCC — which provides legal advice to the state legislature, and edits draft legislation — issued a takedown notice to justia.com, which was hosting the Oregon Revised Statutes. Justia is a web site that publishes state laws (free of charge, and without advertising) from all states, in a standard format.

Legislative Counsel Dexter Johnson issued the takedown notice under direction from the LCC, and cited a 1953 law that gives it authority to make determinations about ownership of various works of the Legislature. He wrote that although the words of the laws themselves are in the public domain, some of the text involved in their publication — the section numbers, descriptive text, etc. — is owned by the State, and protected by copyright.

California-based nonprofit public.resource.org has been the leading advocate for getting this policy changed. They have retained counsel to challenge the policy. Their research indicates both that there aren’t solid legal grounds for this policy, and that it is contrary to the public interest.

The LCC has invited Public.resource.org to give testimony at their next public meeting, but there is no formal representation for Oregon’s community of wiki editors, bloggers, etc.

I expect to testify at the hearing, and would welcome the company of any other Oregon folks. Let me know if you want to come! Additionally, I’d encourage you all to write your legislators (find out who they are here), and the members of the LCC. I’ll try to work up a standard letter in the next day or two, so you don’t have to compose from scratch; watch this post for further news. (Also, note that we don’t yet have a Wikipedia article on the Legislative Counsel Committee…hint…hint…)

Further reading: