Statement on U.S. District Court Decision Allowing Private Copyright Holders to Continue Restricting Public Access to the Public Law

STATEMENT FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

February 9th, 2017

CONTACT

Mary Kate Mezzetti

marykate@opengovfoundation.org | +1 (508) 776-2789

WASHINGTON, DC (February 9th, 2017The OpenGov Foundation today released the following statement from Executive Director Seamus Kraft on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruling that allows private standards organizations to continue restricting public access to critical elements of the public law.  The federal court decision against Public.Resource.Org, long-time advocates for the public’s right to know the laws under which they must live, upheld a copyright claim by private parties over the critical components of the public safety laws of the United States— public safety laws such as building codes, fire codes and electrical codes:

“Everyone should agree that the code of law is the bedrock of American society. Our country is governed by laws, not men-and certainly not private companies. In fact, our country was founded on the principle that everyone has a right to know the law, to access it freely, debate it and engage with it where they want and how they want.  Any artificial barriers or restrictions or paywalls erected between citizens and their own laws erode our most basic civil rights, undercut our democracy and must be removed by any means necessary.

“The U.S. District Court could have decided to strengthen public access to the law.  It could have removed a patently artificial barrier standing between citizens and their right to know the law.  It could have secured a basic civil right for all Americans.  It did not.

“Make no mistake: this copyright catastrophe will end soon enough, whether through the courts or Congressional action. Smart leaders of private standards bodies should recognize that reality and acknowledge that public safety is everybody’s business, that public safety codes created by thousands of dedicated volunteers are meant to be the law, and that rationing access to the law is not only anti-democratic, but harms public safety.”

 

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