JAMES GRIMMELMANN, New York Law School
Recently, the state of Oregon has used copyright law to threaten people who were publishing its laws online. Can they really do that?
More to the point, why would they? This essay will put the Oregon fracas in historical context, and explain the public policies at stake. Ultimately, it’ll try to convince you that Oregon’s demands, while wrong, aren’t unprecedented. People have been claiming copyright in the law for a long time, and at times they’ve been able to make a halfway convincing case for it. While there are good answers to these arguments, they’re not always the first ones that come to hand. It’s really only the arrival of the Internet that genuinely puts the long-standing goal of free and unencumbered access to the law within our grasp.
This essay, written for nonlawyers and people interested in contemporary debates over access to the law, explains what’s at stake in the Oregon dispute, how people have tried such things before, the role of new technologies in improving legal publishing, what the law has to say about it, and where we ought to go from here.
Source: LSN Legal Information & Technology Vol. 1 No. 8, 04/08/2009