Liberating America's secret, for-pay laws - Boing Boing 2012-08-20


I. ‘Code Is Law’—Lessig ... Did you know that vital parts of the US law are secret, and you're only allowed to read them if you pay a standards body thousands of dollars for the right to find out what the law of the land is? Public.Resource.Org spent $7,414.26 buying privately-produced technical public safety standards that have been incorporated into U.S. federal law. These public safety standards govern and protect a wide range of activity, from how bicycle helmets are constructed to how to test for lead in water to the safety characteristics of hearing aids and protective footwear. We have started copying those 73 standards despite the fact they are festooned with copyright warnings, shrinkwrap agreements, and other dire warnings. The reason we are making those copies is because citizens have the right to read and speak the laws that we are required to obey and which are critical to the public safety... II. ‘If a Law Isn't Public, It Isn't a Law’—Justice Stephen Breyer ... Based on the Veeck decision—and a long line of other court opinions that steadfastly maintain that public access to the text of the laws that govern us is a fundamental aspect of our democratic system—Public.Resource.Org has been posting the building, fire, plumbing, and other state public safety codes since 2007. For the last two years, we've taken the public safety codes of California and converted them to HTML. A group of students in the RDC rural mentoring program have converted the formulas and graphics to SVG and MATHML, and we put the whole thing into an open code repository. However, the building, fire, and plumbing codes are just a subset of the technical standards that have become law. Despite the 2002 Veeck decision, standards incorporated by reference continue to be sold for big bucks. Big bucks as in $65 for a 2-page standard from the Society of Automotive Engineers, required as part of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards in 49 CFR § 571. Big bucks as in $847 for a 48-page 1968 standard from Underwriters' Laboratories required as part of the OSHA workplace safety standards in 29 CFR § 1910. Public.Resource.Org has a mission of making the law available to all citizens, and these technical standards are a big black hole in the legal universe. We've taken a gamble and spent $7,414.26 to buy 73 of these technical public safety standards that are incorporated into the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. We made 25 print copies of each of these standards and bound each document in a red/white/blue patriotic Certificate Of Incorporation stating that the documents are legally binding on citizens and residents of the United States and that ‘criminal penalties may apply for noncompliance!’ ... III. Our $273.7 Million Gamble on Print Why print copies you may ask? Frankly, because we're scared and wanted to take a cautious and prudent first step in duplicating these legal documents. With a print edition, we are able to limit distribution with none of those infinite-copy side effects we know and love about our digital world. Print seemed to be a medium the standards people and the legal people could relate to. We know from all the copyright warnings, terms of use, scary shrink wrap agreements, and other red-hot rhetoric that accompanies theses documents that the producers continue to believe that copies may not be made under any circumstances. Those of you familiar with copyright math know that statutory damages for unlawful replication of a document is $150,000 per infraction. So, even though we strongly believe that the documents are not entitled to copyright protection, and moreover that our limited print run is in any case definitely fair use, if a judge were to decide that what we did was breaking the law, 25 copies of 73 standards works out to $273,750,000 in potential liability. While whales may make bigger bets, we draw the line at $273 million. Those copies were bound up in 27.9-pound boxed sets and dispatched to 3 classes of recipients: [1] 10 sets were sent to the Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) with a Notice of Incorporation, stating that comments must be received by Public.Resource.Org by May 1, 2012. The recipients include the American National Standards Institute, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Society for Testing and Materials, British Standards Institute, IEEE, International Organization for Standardization, National Fire Protection Association, National Sanitation Foundation, Society of Automotive Engineers, and theUnderwriters' Laboratories. [2] 7 sets were sent to U.S. government offices, including the White House, Senate (Senators Grassley and Whitehouse), House (Representatives Issa and Lofgren), National Archives, Administrative Conference of the United States, Federal Trade Commission, and the Copyright Office raising 21 points of law and policy ranging from excessive CEO compensation to cahootenizing in restraint of trade. [3] The remaining copies have been reserved for public exhibition and legal defense, including copies furnished to EFF, the Harvard Law School faculty, two copies for the



08/16/2012, 06:08

From feeds:

Open Access Tracking Project (OATP) »

Tags: oa.psi oa.business_models oa.comment oa.repositories oa.libass oa.usa oa.legislation oa.advocacy oa.petitions oa.societies oa.india oa.libraries oa.crowd oa.consultations oa.pd oa.prices oa.fair_use oa.fees oa.harvard.u oa.arl oa.columbia.u oa.eff oa.sdos oa.fines oa.south oa.copyright



Date tagged:

08/20/2012, 18:46

Date published:

03/25/2012, 14:33