Thursday, September 04, 2008

Samuelson quoted about copyright and electronic access to CA laws

In a September 3, 2008 Santa Rosa Press Democrat article, "He's giving you access, one document at a time," concerning efforts to make California laws more accessible on-line, Professor Pam Samuelson was quoted

"If it's the law, the public should have access to it," she said.

Samuelson points out that the idea of copyright was established to provide people incentive to create. People are given exclusive legal rights to their paintings, writings and other works because by selling those rights they can attempt to make a living.

There is no similar need for financial incentives to establish standards such as building codes, Samuelson said. For the most part, volunteers spend long hours drafting proposed standards for things like plumbing and building. Governments often take those standards and adopt them into law.

Once the standards become law, she doesn't think people can claim copyright protections. But like Malamud, she sees the courts making the final ruling.

"I don't think it's an airtight case for either side. But I think the law favors that if something is a law, it's in the public domain," she said.

9/29/08 Update: This article has been picked up by the San Francisco Chronicle (9/27/08) and the NY Times (9/29/08).