Monthly Archives: July 2015

Pentagon Signals Move to Arm More Troops at Recruiting Stations

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary has given his top commanders the green light to allow more troops to carry weapons at U.S. bases, with a focus on recruiting stations, Reserve centers and other softer military targets. Carter’s actions came two weeks after a Kuwaiti-born gunman fatally shot four Marines and a sailor before police killed… Continue reading Pentagon Signals Move to Arm More Troops at Recruiting Stations

Greenpeace Protesters Block Shell Drilling Vessel From Leaving Portland, Oregon

A Shell drilling vessel was blocked from leaving , Oregon, on Thursday morning by a group of protesters dangling off of the St. Johns Bridge over the Willamette River. The Fennica was headed to the Arctic for an oil-drilling mission when protesters on the bridge lowered themselves by ropes toward the water and chanted,… Continue reading Greenpeace Protesters Block Shell Drilling Vessel From Leaving Portland, Oregon

New DEA Chief Says Pot Is ‘Probably Not’ As Dangerous As Heroin

The new leader of the Drug Enforcement Administration, , was quoted Tuesday saying heroin is probably more dangerous than marijuana. Does this mean the dawn of a new lighter-handed policy on persecuting marijuana-related crimes? It’s hard to tell, but many already believe that Rosenberg is a big departure from his rigid predecessor. Up until now,… Continue reading New DEA Chief Says Pot Is ‘Probably Not’ As Dangerous As Heroin

State of Georgia: “Publishing its State Laws for Free Online is ‘Terrorism'”

Atlanta, GA 2015 (LWMC)

Government officials have threatened “rogue archivist” with legal action many times for his efforts to make public government documents widely available for free, but the state of has set a new standard for fighting this ridiculous battle: It’s suing Malamud for infringing its copyright of state laws by — horrors — publishing them online.

The law has no copyright, because it’s owned by the people.
– Carl Malamud

The state’s lawsuit, filed last week in Atlanta federal court, accuses Malamud of piracy — and worse, of “a form of ‘terrorism.'” His offense: Through his website, public.resource.org, he provides members of the public access to a searchable and downloadable scan of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated — that is, the entire body of state law. The state wants a court order forcing Malamud to stop.Carl

Georgia and Malamud have been waging this battle for a couple of years, or ever since Malamud sent thumb drives bearing the scans to the speaker of the state House of Representatives in 2013. A cease-and-desist order, which Malamud rebuffed, came virtually by return mail.

This isn’t the first such battle Malamud has waged. For roughly two decades he’s been working to make public laws, codes and court documents, well, public. At almost every turn he’s been fought by government agencies that prefer to extract a fee from taxpayers for access, even though, as Malamud points out, the public pays for the work in the first place, via taxes.

Among his notable successes is helping to persuade the Securities and Exchange Commission to make EDGAR, its database of corporate filings, available free of charge. Another is RECAP, an add-on for Internet browsers that launches when the user accesses PACER, the federal court system’s database of court filings and rulings, which charges users by the page. Every time a RECAP user accesses a court document, it automatically gets added to a free public database. Users get access for free to every document uploaded to RECAP, signified on their browsers by a glowing blue “R.” This is the sort of effort that prompted BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow to label Malamud a “rogue archivist.”

At the state level, his battle with Oregon ended when the state Legislature concluded that, yes, its state laws shouldn’t be protected by copyright. “Most states don’t play this game,” Malamud says, but about a half a dozen still hold back from making their statutes books fully available, including Mississippi and Idaho.

Georgia has gone further than any other state, Malamud says, by actually filing an infringement lawsuit. The state claims that Malamud has done more than merely publish public statutes. The texts of state laws, it agrees, should be “free to the public.”
His offense, the lawsuit asserts, is the inclusion in his download of the “annotations” attached to those texts. These include “synopses of cases” interpreting the law, “summaries of Opinions of the Attorney General of Georgia” and other summaries. Each is “an original and creative work of authorship that is protected by copyrights owned by the state of Georgia,” the suit claims.

Malamud doesn’t accept the distinction. The whole package, he says, is “the official code of the state of Georgia” and to fully understand the law one needs to refer to the annotations too. To say you can have free access to one but pay for the other, he says, is like saying “you can have a sandwich for free but you have to pay for the mayonnaise, and the mayonnaise comes on all the sandwiches.” He also points out that the free online version of the statutory texts isn’t all that useful: As maintained by LexisNexis on a state contract, it can’t be copied or downloaded, according to the attached copyright notice.

Malamud says he wouldn’t distribute genuinely creative and independent work based on the Georgia code by a third party, such as the synopses of court cases produced by Westlaw. The annotations at issue aren’t like that — they’re produced by a state body, the Georgia Code Revision Commission, and the copyright is held by the state, not a commercial publisher. “The law has no copyright because it’s owned by the people,” he says.

The state’s own lawsuit acknowledges that the annotations are “valuable analysis and guidance regarding … state law.” And the core of its case isn’t that the annotations shouldn’t be broadly accessible, only that the state doesn’t want to pay the cost itself. LexisNexis shoulders the cost and in return gets the right to charge users, earning a profit.

If LexisNexis can’t recoup those costs because Malamud is providing a free alternative, the lawsuit asserts, the state “will be required to either stop publishing the annotations altogether or pay … using tax dollars.”

Well, yes. Isn’t that what taxes are for?

One can glean how threadbare the state’s case is from its use of the term “terrorist” to describe Malamud, who is anything but. This is an exploitation of a line from a book he published 20 years ago, describing in jocular terms his efforts to make international code standards public. “That was a quip,” he says. “I’ve been a public servant for 30 years. I put the law online, and to make that into ‘terrorism’ is distasteful.”

Bipartisan Bill Introduced To End Cuba Trade Embargo

A Republican congressman from Minnesota introduced a bill on Tuesday that would repeal the U.S. embargo against trade with , according to the Star Tribune . The announcement follows staunch opposition by some Republicans to the recent restoration of full diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Called the Cuba Trade Act of 2015 , the… Continue reading Bipartisan Bill Introduced To End Cuba Trade Embargo

White House Rejects Petition to Pardon Snowden

The Obama administration has rejected a signed by almost 168,000 people calling on it to former intelligence contractor for leaking US government secrets. The White House reiterated its tough stance against the exiled fugitive, whom supporters regard as a whistleblower, in response to the petition on its own website. Lisa Monaco, an… Continue reading White House Rejects Petition to Pardon Snowden

LA City Council Bans Large-Capacity Ammunition Magazines

— Defying the warnings of gun rights groups, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to ban the possession of firearm magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds. Backers of the plan said it would help minimize the bloodshed of mass shootings by forcing attackers to interrupt their rampages to stop and… Continue reading LA City Council Bans Large-Capacity Ammunition Magazines

Court Orders New Air-Pollution Limits in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, 11 other States

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to relax some limits it set on smokestack emissions that cross state lines and taint downwind areas with air from power plants. At the same time, the court upheld the ‘s right to impose the clean-air standards, rejecting an argument by states and industry… Continue reading Court Orders New Air-Pollution Limits in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, 11 other States

US Expanding Internet Access in Low-Income Communities

WASHINGTON — A new program to connect low-income households in public housing with access and Internet-capable devices announced Wednesday will aim particularly at children and include training to help program participants maximize their use of the new devices and technology. ConnectHome will link 270,000 households, and 200,000 children, with broadband access in 28 communities including… Continue reading US Expanding Internet Access in Low-Income Communities

Q&A on the Planned Parenthood Videos

Here’s a look at how ‘s videos are bringing up long-standing questions about fetal tissue research: Q: Who released the videos and what is the dispute about? A: A California nonprofit called released the videos, which they say were taped in “undercover” operations. Members of the group posed as a… Continue reading Q&A on the Planned Parenthood Videos