You might think that there’s nothing a government won’t try. You’d be right. But I was near stupified to learn that the state of California copyrights its laws. And it’s not alone.
The state tries to control — through copyright — how you can access its laws, where and how you store them, etc. The state makes available its building codes, plumbing standards and criminal laws online, but requires you to ask for permission to download them!
The state’s out to make money. It charges $1,556 for a digital version, more for a print-out, and makes nearly a million dollars a year selling what is legally ours.
Yes, what’s ours. We are a nation of laws, not of men, and we have the right to own and reprint our laws as much as we want. The purpose of copyright is to ensure private parties can maintain some control over their intellectual property. But the laws themselves are, in point of elementary political theory, the intellectual property of all. Not of state bureaus.
Thankfully, heroic Internet technician and mover and shaker Carl Malamud believes in government transparency. And he, unlike Al Gore, really worked to help build the Internet.
On Labor Day Mr. Malamud published the whole California code online. Available for free.
Obviously, Malamud is spoiling for a fight. Good. He should win it. He has, after all, the law (if not the state) on his side.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.