The rumor that “print is dead” may have been a bit premature. In this episode we talk with Fastcase CEO and co-founder, Ed Walters about his vision of why print titles are a vital component of a legal publishers arsenal and how Fastcase is using its new Full Court Press imprint to make his company even more competitive. Walters also reveals that Fastcase 7 will soon be making its journey through space, and move from its beta “Mercury” release, and progress to the beta “Venus”, and is making its way toward the fulling functioning “Earth” release this summer. And if your were curious… Pluto is a planet. Fastcase is also looking to leverage its 2018 acquisitions of Docket Alarm and Law Street Media to push the company into the future of legal analytics and advancing legal news reporting. If geeky and nerdy are the new sexy… Walters and his group at Fastcase are bringing it back.

Listen on mobile platforms:  Apple Podcasts LogoApple PodcastsOvercast LogoOvercastSpotify LogoSpotify

We also talk with American Association of Law Libraries Director of Government Relations, Emily Feltren, about the status of making PACER free to all users. The bills are filed in the US Congress, and the amici briefs are filed (including one by Fastcase and Ed Walters) to bring down the price of PACER, or make it completely free. Feltren teaches us more on that topic.

Information Inspirations

Greg had traveling difficulties last week and couldn’t make it to the ARK conference on law libraries. Well, he couldn’t make it physically. He did, however, get to use zoom to make his presentation to the roughly 100 attendees. And, of course, it couldn’t be just any old video presentation. Greg found a way to bring in some green screen action through zoom’s background features. Not sure if that counts a sexy, but it was definitely geeky.

Without Fail Podcast – Alex Blumberg, who recently sold Gimlet Media to Spotify for $200M, has a podcast where he interviews entrepreneurs not only about their successes, but also about their failures. On a recent interview with brand revitalizer, Sharon Price John, the CEO and President of Build-A-Bear Workshops, she discusses the vision that change agents need to bring brands back to life. If you’re going to turn things around, you have to accept the problems that come with it. You need to embrace that “it might not not be your fault, but it is now your problem.”

Herbert Smith Freehills gives its employees ten days which they may focus entirely on innovation. Marlene discusses what that means, and that while this is a great concept, it is important that the employees be given the flexibility to be creative everyday. Perhaps that should also mean more flexibility in when and where they work, and that they be encouraged and supported in traveling more often.

Gen Z’s are in college, in law schools, and are entering the workforce. We’ve talked about them before, but we’re not sure that previous generations are really ready to work side-by-side with this “brutally” honest generation.

Are Lawyers Ready to be Managed by Metrics? (American Lawyer) – If you think that legal work from attorneys, law firms, and in-house counsel is so unique that it cannot be measured, analyzed, predicted, and have a value metric placed upon it… then your days may be numbered. Roy Strom’s article, including quotes from our very own, Toby Brown, says that legal work is measurable, but are the lawyers ready for those types of metrics? Looks like they may not have a choice.

Subscribe to The Geek In Review podcast

Don’t forget to subscribe, rate, and comment to The Geek in Review on your favorite podcast platform. If you comments, compliments, or suggestions, you can tweet @gebauerm and/or @glambert to reach out.

Thanks to Jerry David DiCicca for his original music.

 

I am usually one who believes if you need to tell someone you are valuable, you probably aren’t. However, I want to pile on with Heather Morse and others for legal media writers to stop using the term “non-lawyer” when describing legal professionals who work on the operations side of law firms. It’s just plain lazy writing, and you can do better.

Heather’s post, Husch Blackwell’s incoming CEO is a professional, not a “non-lawyer,” lays out the argument that there are lawyers in law firms, and there are professionals who are in the business of running a law firm. The old way of running these law firms usually meant that one or more of the law firm partners also ran operations. However, as firms grew, that method was challenged by a more traditional business structure of having those trained in management and business operations running the administrative structure of the firm, and letting the Partners set the strategic goals of the firm, and get back to the practice of law.

I get it. It’s an easy phrase that simplifies the wall between a licensed attorney who is practicing law, and an administrative professional who is handling the day-to-day operations of the firm. However, as Heather Morse puts it, it “does a disservice to all of the firms that are being run as businesses.” I’ll stress again, it’s also pretty lazy. Just read the title of the article that is invoking Heather and other legal industry professionals to call for a removal of this phrase. Please, read it out loud to yourself:

Husch Blackwell’s Next Leader is a Newly Employed Non-Lawyer

Now take a drink of coffee to wash that taste out of your mouth.

I’ve checked “non-lawyer” usage with other publications, like Bloomberg Law Big Law Business, and noticed that the term is typically only used when it is describing ownership by someone who is not a licensed attorney, or when advice or counsel is coming from someone who is an expert in the field, but not a licensed attorney. It can be done.

My request for all the legal industry writers out there is for you to take the phrase “non-lawyer” and throw it away. Be a little more creative when you announce a new CEO of a law firm who happens to be a business professional with vast experience. Focus on what he or she brings to the firm, rather than if the person can or cannot practice law.

Today, Jones McClure Publishing is now simply O’Connor’s. For those of us in Texas, this won’t be a huge surprise or much of a change in the way we think of the company’s brand. Most of us call everything they publish after Judge Michol O’Connor, who started the company nearly twenty-five years ago, and is still involved in the company although her son, Baird Craft, is now the President of the company. The biggest deal will probably be sending a note to the Accounting Department letting them know to change the vendor name on the accounts payable system, and some changes in the website address (now oconnors.com) and having to update my email contacts.

Now I could have mis-remembered the story of how Judge O’Connor came up with the “Jones McClure” name of the company, but it was definitely a made up name, since there were no Jones or McClures involved in the creation of the company. At one of the AALL annual conference dinners, Judge O’Connor got up and told the story, and I seem to remember that the company was named after a couple of the delegates from the Second Consultation and Convention where Texas sought independence from Mexico. Delegates Oliver Jones, and Bartlett D. McClure were present during the April, 1883 convention and thus, the name Jones McClure was created. I see that Charles Baird was also a delegate, so I assume not only was the company named after some of the delegates, but also the current President of the company. (Baird, forgive me if I am jumping to too much of a conclusion here… as, there may have been a couple of glasses of wine consumed during the story.)

One of my favorite people, Jason Wilson, is the Vice-President of O’Connor’s, and I asked him for a story to tell about the name change. Here is what he had to say:

For years, whenever I would meet someone cold—say an attorney or librarian—and told them I was with Jones McClure Publishing, I would always get a polite nod. But when I followed it up with, “We publish O’Connor’s,” the reactions were always the same: “Oh, I love you guys! I have all your books.” This is an experience each of us at the company has had. So, when we moved into the digital space with O’Connor’s Online and then started planning for the new web store, we decided to retire Jones McClure Publishing in favor of the brand we’ve worked so hard to create and something our customers recognize immediately as quality products and services. So now we are just O’Connor’s.

For those of us that rely upon the twenty-five titles published by O’Connor’s, or the new online resources, and those attorneys we support who enjoy the detailed information provided within those titles, in an easily understood writing style, we applaud the official name change to better recognize Judge O’Connor’s vision of creating legal books, minus the legalese.

[Ed. Note: Updated at 2:02 to include Wilson quote. – GL]

A couple months ago, I had a great conversation with Kevin Mitchell of ModioLegal about his product and its “reading the news” concept. He and I talked about the different methods of delivering information and current content to lawyers and we both agreed that we thought the methods of print distribution, email, or RSS feeds allow for massive amounts of information to be disseminated, but that there should be better ways of presenting complex information in a way that is more convenient to access. Kevin’s idea was to produce a way of delivering the information in audio format and providing the listener with a way to consume the content during periods of time where hearing the information is easier than reading the information.

  
I’ve always been one for finding new ways of getting information out to the consumer. The converting text to audio has been something I’ve considered for a long time, but there are obvious issues with converting text to audio, and having it make sense.
  
Some of you may immediately think of a Siri-like voice reading the material to you, but that’s not what Mitchell is doing with this product. As most of you have realized, mechanical voices, no matter how human sounding, just cannot present the information in a way that helps the listener easily digest and understand the nuances of the information being presented. It really takes a person with an ability to read the material in their heads first, and present it in a way that assists the listener absorb the information. For a situation like this, a law student is one of the best candidates for the job.
  
The idea is this:
  • License quality current awareness content that is relevant to the legal industry
  • Pay law students for their time to produce audio narrations of the content,
  • Deliver the audio content through a high-quality, proprietary platform that can be played back on multiple devices ranging from car audio systems, mobile or home devices during multi-tasking activities such as commuting or exercising
  • Give the law students exposure by having them introduce themselves to the audience and provide access to their email address and LinkedIn profile
  • Distribute the recordings quickly so that the information is still current

As someone who used law students to help create the content at the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s online research tool, I thought it was a great idea to leverage the talent that is available and create a situation where the student, the listener, the content licensor and the company benefit. After listening to some of the content, I found it to be very easy to listen to, and easy to understand.

  
ModioLegal is just getting started, so the content is very limited. Right now the legal content is the Audio Edition of ABI Journal, which costs $9.95 a month and comes with a free 1-month trial. I think there is a bit of a “chicken and the egg” issue with a project like this where users of the product will want more content, and content providers would like for there to be more listeners before licensing more content. I imagine that is always an issue when it comes to presenting content in a novel way.
  
Since ModioLegal is a subscription service, I asked if there could be a way for people to demo some of the content without having to sign up for anything or be obligated in any way. Kevin got me a demo login and said that I could post it here and allow the readers of the blog some access to the site. Again, I found it to be very easy to listen and understand the content, so go check it out, perhaps on your smartphone, and see if this type of information dissemination is something you’d like to see more of on the market.
  
username: 3geeks
password: modiolegal
 
 

I’m not sure how I missed this big news coming out of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, but it is something that has made me very happy, and very proud to have played a small part over a decade ago. Peter Martin pointed out on his blog that the Oklahoma Supreme Court, as of January 1, 2014, has become the official publisher of the state’s appellate court decisions and will distribute those decisions through The Oklahoma State Courts Network (http://www.oscn.net). All other publishers, including West Publishing, will be unofficial publishers. This is a big deal, considering that West had been the official publisher for sixty years. Here is a blurb from the Oklahoma Supreme Court decision, 2013 OK 109:

(1) Effective January 1, 2014 the Oklahoma Supreme Court will become the official publisher of decisions of the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals. The Oklahoma State Courts Network at www.oscn.net shall be the repository of official versions of the published decisions of the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals. Such decisions will become official upon the placement of the respective court’s official seal at the beginning of the published decision.
(2) The Oklahoma Bar Journal, West Publishing Company, and other publishers will continue to be unofficial publishers of decisions of the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals.

I’ll ask around to see if I can find out more information behind the decision and write when I know something more. Again, Peter Martin’s post goes into some further detail on what it actually means for a state to publish its own decisions, use a vendor-neutral citation system, and keep those decisions accurate and available.

Thanks to @caminick and those at Justia for pointing this out to me. It is really nice seeing the work started in 1997 by Justice Kauger and my fellow OU Law School classmate, Kevin King, come to fruition. I had the pleasure of managing the Court’s public website from 1999-2002.

Image [cc] Scazon

The year started out with a trio of mergers in the legal information field when Thomson Reuters announced it was acquiring PLC, and Learnlive, and LexisNexis announced it was acquiring Knowledge Mosaic. The activity tappered off a bit after that initial first week flurry, but there have been a number of mergers, acquisitions and partnerships throughout 2013 and we thought we’d review what has changed this year.

I’m sure we’ve missed a few other activities that happened in 2013. Feel free to add those in the comments.

Let’s see what 2014 brings in the great shrinkage of legal information providers.

If you ever want to have some fun at the expense of a law firm librarian, just go up to them and “I have some lawyers that want us to buy a firm wide subscription to Law360… is there anything I should know before doing it?” Then step back and watch them spit fire as they talk about all the things they hate about Law360’s business practices and subscription increases. Once you got them red in the face and dropping a few inappropriate phrases, smile and say “I was just kidding.” Then step back out of punching range.

Now, go ask an attorney what he or she thinks of Law360 and you’ll get a completely different response. I usually get something along the line of “This is the only email that I actually read when it comes in with the daily updates.” That is actually a pretty impressive response from the attorneys, and it is one in which it is very difficult to then tell them that we need to cut the product.

What makes Law360 so valuable to the attorneys? Most of us know that the content is eventually available in other places. The writing isn’t always the most professional. Other products, like a CCH or BNA report tend to be much more thorough in their reporting and linking to relevant legal materials. So what is it about Law360 that is so attractive to the attorneys? Here’s my thoughts:

  1. It is written much like a tabloid. Nice, easy to read headlines with just enough information to invite the reader to click and want to read more.
  2. The practice topics are broken out into nice groups that make sense to the attorneys.
  3. Attorneys are often asked to write articles for Law360, and they know that peers will notice they are writing an article.
  4. Law360 knows what strokes the egos of lawyers, and at the same time, what piques their curiosity through placement of law firm and company names in articles, and inviting others in their firm to read articles the lawyer has written.

To me, number four is the key to success. Lawyers are typically insecure, especially those in BigLaw firms. That doesn’t mean that they are bad lawyers. In fact, they are the top lawyers in their fields, otherwise they wouldn’t be creating the PPP levels that BigLaw firms make (even during the “end of lawyers?” days.) They are insecure because they think that their peer at another firm knows something they don’t, or that they have a process or software or plan that gives them a competitive advantage over them, and they always want to know what the other firms are doing, who they are representing, and who is joining their team. Law360 understands this insecurity and leverages it to their advantage. In a way, it is pure brilliance.

My favorite tactic is when Law360 gets a lawyer from a firm to write an article, and then they place it in a section of the Law360 topics that the firm doesn’t subscribe. Then sends an email to attorneys within the firm giving them a teaser to the article, and a link that then asks them to sign into the platform. Lawyers see this, then call the librarian to get a copy of the article. Since Law360 has been very, very diligent on calling out people on listservs that ask for copies of the articles (because the licensing agreement restricts sending articles outside the firm), librarians then have to tell the attorneys that they cannot get a copy of it because of Law360’s licensing agreement forbids it. As you might guess, the next question from the attorney is “Well, how much does it cost to subscribe?” At that point, the librarian, who has been told not to order any new subscriptions by the ultimate powers-that-be, is now stuck in between a rock and a hard place. The options are to see if they can get this one article somewhere on the Black Market, tell the attorney “Hell No”, go to the powers-that-be and ask for an exemption, or attempt to sneak the subscription through and hope that no one notices the increase in the annual budget. None of these options are very appealing to the librarian, and the results are usually more bitterness directed at Law360.

Quite frankly, the Law360 model is pretty brilliant, even if it causes the average blood pressure of law librarians to increase 10% at the mere mention of their name. Get attorneys to write articles, charge them and their peers to read those articles, and then stroke their egos while simultaneously playing on their insecurities. I can’t think of a better business model. Factor in some of the outrageous price increases they have charged to law firms, and you’ve got something that Steve Jobs would have been proud of.

To be fair to Law360, and its now parent organization, LexisNexis, they do put out a very good product. I would bet that if you did a cost analysis of what you pay per article read by a lawyer, that the average cost per article for Law360 is significantly less than what you pay per read article from BNA or CCH. I don’t have hard stats on that, so I’m going with my gut and my previous experiences. I’ve heard many librarians say that they tell their attorneys that most of the articles (or at least the substance of those articles) they see in Law360 will show up in the next few days in other publications, so that they can wait until it shows up in either a free product or a subscription that the firm already owns. As many of us know, lawyers don’t usually like being told to wait a few days. In those few days all of their peers at other firms (who obviously already subscribe to Law360) will gain a competitive advantage over them and will steal all of their clients away because the peers know something that they don’t!! Wait?? If we wait, we lose!! We need to subscribe now!!!

Law360… you are brilliant!

This is the point at which the law librarian opens the side drawer on his desk and takes his blood pressure medication and counts the days to retirement.

Here I am, sitting in my office, planning out my budget for the next year when along comes this announcement from Amazon: “Introducing the Kindle Matchbook.”  It seems that Amazon will provide you with an ebook copy of a book that was purchased from them in print for a nominal ranging from a Free (yes, I said free) to a high of $2.99.  And they’re willing to count purchases made all the way back to 1995.  There is one limit:  this is only available for titles that the publishers have opted in on.  I think this is pretty darn exciting but what will really be interesting is how widely the publishers support this program.

As a Law Librarian (or Research Services Specialist if you prefer), I’m thrilled to see a purveyor of the printed word that acknowledges that it is cheaper to publish books electronically and gives you a benefit for purchasing the print edition.  In the Legal Publishing world, Firms are expected to pay the same price for an ebook as they do for a the printed edition (and yes, you do save on the Shipping & Handling charges) and you need to spend several thousand dollars annually on software to manage the confounded things.  Perhaps this move by Amazon will shake this model up.  You can find more information about this Amazon program here.

No matter what your opinion is of Carl Malamud, he definitely keeps things interesting when it comes to making public information public. Malamud has been the focus on this blog recently when he told Georgia “no thanks” when the state asked him to take down their official state code. This time around, it seems that a number of professional societies and trade associations are suing him and Public.Resource.org in the US District Court for DC for copyright infringement stating that:

Public Resource has copied en masse Plaintiffs’ copyrighted standards in their entirety, posted them to its public website, and encouraged the public to disregard Plaintiffs’ copyrights and to copy, distribute, and create derivative works of those standards at will.

The entire PDF version of the complaint is available here.

This is the same old argument of “should laws be copyrighted” only with a bit of a twist. Usually when we think of “laws”  we think of the legalese written out and approved by members of the legislature. Legal Codes, on the other hand, are usually produced by a private organization, and then adopted by state and local governments. The idea behind having the private organization write the standards that are turned into law is that these are the professionals that understand the technical aspects at a much deeper level than those in the legislature. It has been viewed as a private/public blend that uses the knowledge and efficiency of the private industry and the power to enforce regulations held by the state. One of the trade offs with this type of collaboration is that the government doesn’t take on the expense (directly) of writing the standards, and the private organization keeps the copyright and gets to sell the standards to those required to follow it.

As you might expect, Carl Malamud’s opinion on this topic is very simple. “Code is Law”:

The law belongs to the people, and cannot become the private property of some governmental or non-governmental organization, no matter how seemingly well-deserved are the rents one could extract from winning a monopoly concession on a parcel of the law. While standards bodies need money to carry out their valuable work, and while it is clear that these standards bodies create high-quality documents that are essential to our public safety, one cannot cordon off the public domain simply because of an institutional desire for funds. 

So, the fight is on. The Associations are looking to have their material removed, attorney fees paid, and any other compensation that the court deems fit. Some of the Plaintiffs have posted their own, read-only (no printing) version of their codes on their own websites. See ASTM and NFPA.  Malamud says this is just not enough and seems to be ready to tell the Association to ‘bring it on.’

Should legal codes be copyrighted? Or, should they fall under the traditional rule that laws are public and if the public is required to obey them, then they should have free access to them? I have a feeling that the DC Circuit won’t be the last word on this issue.

Atlanta - Downtown: Georgia State Capitol - House Chamber
Image [cc] Wally Gobetz

Well, it didn’t take very long for Carl Malamud to respond [PDF] to the cease and desist letter from Georgia Code Revision Commission Chairman, Joshua McKoon. I applaud Malamud’s resolve and willingness to call the State of Georgia out on its request, and its claim to copyright on the official state laws.

Malamud immediately comes back on the State’s copyright claim by stating “It is a long-held tenet of American law that there is no copyright in the law.” He goes on to site court decisions backing his argument, and also points out that the “unannotated” version that the State provides online for free is a poor substitute for the official law and that to use the unannotated would place the user at a higher risk of peril. The money quote is:

No matter how you slice that cheese, it all looks the same. The Official Code of Georgia Annotated, every component of it, is the official law.

The State of Oregon held similar claim to their official state code, and after conducting a hearing where they “listened to citizens and to their own legislative counsel, kindly invited [Public.Resources.Org] to speak, and at the end of the day unanimously waived any assertion of copyright in the Oregon Revised Statutes.”

Malamud states that this type of dissemination of the law should be something that states should encourage and support, not send out threats and prosecute.

I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly. Good luck Carl!

Here is a reprint of Malamud’s letter. The PDF version is online at law.resources.org.

Hon. Joshua McKoon,
Chairman Georgia Code Revision Commission
319-A Coverdell Legislative Office Building
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

Hon. David Ralston
Speaker of the House
House of Representatives of Georgia
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

Hon. David Shafer
President Pro Tempore
Georgia State Senate
321 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334

Dear Senator McKoon, Speaker Ralston, and President Pro Tempore Shafer:

Public.Resource.Org is in receipt of the communication of July 25, 2013 from Senator McKoon concerning your notice of purported copyright infringement. Your notice claims copyright infringement for the publication of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated. Your letter claims “all copyrightable aspects of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated are copyrighted under United States copyright law” and disclaims any copyright “in the statutory text itself or in the number of the Code sections.”

We respectfully decline to remove the Official Code of Georgia Annotated and respectfully reject the distinction between “the statutory text itself” and additional materials, as both are integral part and parcel of the only Official Code of Georgia Annotated, such material constituting the official law as published by the State.

It is a long-held tenet of American law that there is no copyright in the law. This is because the law belongs to the people and in our system of democracy we have the right to read, know, and speak the laws by which we choose to govern ourselves. Requiring a license before allowing citizens to read or speak the law would be a violation of deeply-held principles in our system that the laws apply equally to all.

This principle was strongly set out by the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Marshall when they stated “the Court is unanimously of opinion that no reporter has or can have any copyright in the written opinions delivered by this Court, and that the judges thereof cannot confer on any reporter any such right.” Wheaton v. Peters, 33 U.S. (8 Pet.) 591 (1834). The Supreme Court specifically extended that principle to state law, such as the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, in Banks v. Manchester (128 U.S. 244, 1888) , where it stated that “the authentic exposition and interpretation of the law, which, binding every citizen, is free for publication to all, whether it is a declaration of unwritten law, or an interpretation of a constitution or a statute.”

This principle has become embedded clearly throughout our country. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has stated that “any person desiring to publish the statutes of a state may use any copy of such statutes to be found in any printed book, whether such book be the property of the state or the property of an individual.” Howell v. Miller, 91 F. 129, 137 (6th Cir. 1898) (Harlan, J.). These strong precedents are reflected in the official policy statement of the U.S. Copyright Office: “Edicts of government, such as judicial opinions, administrative rulings, legislative enactments, public ordinances, and similar official legal documents are not copyrightable for reasons of public policy. This applies to such works whether they are Federal, State, or local as well as to those of foreign governments.” Compendium II: Copyright Office Practices § 206.01 (1984)

The principle that there is no copyright in the law, and that no license is therefore needed, has been fundamental to the evolution of our legal system. West Law could never have built that magnificent edifice of American jurisprudence, the Federal Reporter, if each court had imposed restrictions on promulgation. If citizens are required to obtain a permission before repeating the law, does that not strike at the very heart of our rights of free speech under the First Amendment? If ignorance of the law is no excuse, how can we restrict dissemination of those laws?

The distinction between “the statutory text itself” and additional materials perhaps would have some bearing if the publication in question were the independent commercial endeavor of a publication firm. If such a firm were to copy the state statutes and compile that information with additional analyses and summaries and were to do so as a strictly commercial endeavor, we understand and respect that this material would be their private property.

However, the publication in question is not by some independent endeavor, it is by the Official Georgia Code Revision Commission and the document is clearly labeled as the official Official Code of Georgia Annotated. Your hired sub-contractor states this clearly in their marketing materials:

“The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) provides users with the official Georgia statutes, fully annotated and including guidance from the Georgia Code Commission. If you live or work in Georgia, the OCGA is the essential reference you need to guide you quickly and efficiently in understanding the Georgia statutory scheme.” [Emphasis in the Original]

The Official Code of Georgia Annotated is a publication of the State and it is the definitive statement by the State of the law. Any lawyer would ignore this publication and any of its components at his or her peril. Any citizen wishing to read the Official Official Code of Georgia Annotated would have trouble distinguishing between the “statutory text itself” and those materials outside the box. No matter how you slice that cheese, it all looks the same. The Official Code of Georgia Annotated, every component of it, is the official law.

Your letter also notes that “the unannotated Georgia Code…is available to the public at no charge at www.legis.ga.gov.” In addition to numerous technical and usability deficiencies, this site is subject to two different terms of use. The first, which must be accepted before entering the site, stresses that only “the latest print version” of the Code is official and authoritative. The second set of terms has 8 parts and 35 subparts and permits only “insubstantial” uses and even prohibits use of the Code in “newsletters” and “articles.” As you can see, when copyright prohibits citizens from speaking the law of the land, substantial concerns are raised under the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions.

A similar situation occurred in the great state of Oregon when we received a Cease and Desist notice on April 7, 2008 for publishing online the Oregon Revised Statutes. As with the present situation, lawyers for that state demanded licenses as a condition to publication and attempted to make a distinction between the law and the additional organization of that material by the Legislative Counsel of Oregon.

I am pleased to tell you that the State of Oregon decided that this was an issue that should be decided by the people of Oregon and their elected officials. The Speaker of the House and the Senate President called a hearing of the Legislative Counsel Committee, listened to citizens and to their own legislative counsel, kindly invited us to speak, and at the end of the day unanimously waived any assertion of copyright in the Oregon Revised Statutes.

Not only was copyright waived, something very special happened. With the restrictions on use of the Oregon Revised Statutes lifted, a law student at the Lewis & Clark Law School was able to take this material and develop a vastly better version of the Oregon Revised Statutes for the people of his state to use. Restricting use of the codes restricts innovation, making it harder for citizens and lawyers to know and understand the law. Restrictions on the Official Code of Georgia Annotated hurts democracy and the citizens of Georgia by making their laws less accessible.

In Oregon, the assertion of copyright dated back to the 1940s and the state had carried that policy forward. When the people of Oregon looked at the issue in the light of our modern era, the decision was very clear. Is it not time, in light of developments such as the Internet, to revisit those restrictions?

Our publication of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated should be encouraged, not threatened. Our publication of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated is unimpeachable act, not one that should be prosecuted. I would be more than happy to come to Georgia to discuss the matter with you, and would strongly encourage you to discuss the issue with the people of Georgia.

Sincerely yours,

Carl Malamud

Public.Resource.Org