Reading the Law May Require Payment

Mississippi the latest state to claim copyright over official compilation of its laws (TechDirt, 14 Oct 2013) – We’ve written about Carl Malamud and his ongoing crusade to make sure that the law is actually publicly accessible and not locked up by copyright. Just recently, we noted that he’d run into some troubles with Georgia, and it appears now he’s facing a similar challenge from Mississippi. The basic story was actually posted as an update to Malamud’s ongoing Kickstarter project, which we’ve already told you about. The issue? Malamud had purchased, formatted and posted Mississippi’s Code of Law, Annotated . As with Georgia, the real issue seems to be in the question of whether or not the annotations themselves are covered by copyright, as they’re often produced and sold by a private company (usually LexisNexis), but in coordination with the government. That’s the case here, as the letter Malamud received from Mississippi’s intellectual property counsel , Larry Schemmel, suggests. Schemmel goes to great lengths to point out that the unannotated code is “freely available,” but that the “creative work” behind the annotations is covered by copyright, and thus should be taken off of Malamud’s site. However, as Malamud notes in his response letter (complete with a bunch of “exhibits”), the State of Mississippi makes it fairly clear that the annotated code is part of the law , and thus he argues it, too, should be freely accessible.

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