Increasingly, folks in government balk at the commonsense requirement for transparency. They don’t like the basic idea of a republic, apparently — that we have rights; folks in government have duties. They are bound to serve us.
And allow us to oversee their work.
The latest bizarre attempt to wiggle out of transparency comes from California. A proposed bit of legislation, AB-2880, seeks to grant state employees copyright protection — for their everyday work as public servants.
“The bill claims to protect access to the documents through the California Public Records Act,” explains Steven Greenhut in The American Spectator, “but it gives the government the ability to control what people do with many of those records.” Emphasis added — to direct your attention to the enormity of the increase in government prerogatives.
Public records are called “public” not merely because they putatively serve the public, but because they are open to the public. Yet, if this measure passes, those records are essentially privatized . . . to the government.
That is not what we mean, usually, when we say “privatize.”
Using copyright law to protect “thin-skinned officials,” AB-2880 would insulate bureaucrats even further from citizen oversight.
The excuse for the law, to help agencies manage their “intellectual property,” is hardly a big concern, except perhaps in one way: trademark infringement. We do not want private businesses to pretend to be state parks or bureaus. But the overreach beyond this core issue goes so far into crazyland that one must question the intent behind it.
And stop it.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.