Thursday, September 04, 2008

You need deep pockets to not be ignorant in California

The peasants are forever being scolded that "Ignorance of the law is no excuse" whilst they are being prosecuted for crimes. Such ignorance is sometimes met with a certain amount of sympathy for the accused, however, given the tens of thousands of laws, some of which directly contradict each other, that the average person has to stay on the right side of as they navigate their daily lives.

Fortunately, an easy solution exists that helps the uninformed: simply go online and get your very own copy of the laws that govern your existence in order to find out just how many things are ridiculously off-limits to the common folk these days.

If one wants the laws of California, though, doing so will cost the curious $1,556 for a digital download, or $2,315 if one is old-school and wants them printed out, because the mighty government there has seen fit to copyright its laws, which means that a California resident has to pay the state royalties for the privilege of possessing a copy of the ever-increasing burden of rules under which they have to toil. It's technically illegal for the poor saps to even save the online version to their own home computer.

"California asserts copyright protections for its laws, contending it ensures the public gets accurate, timely information while generating revenue for the state." (Emphasis mine)

Because accurate, timely information that determines whether someone goes to prison or not can't just be posted on an official state Web site for all to see. Not timely enough, apparently.

One brave man named Carl Malamud is fighting this absurd position by posting the complete statutes of California on his website, hoping that California will sue him and lose, cementing for all time the notion that the laws belong to the people and not the government that ostensibly "serves" them. He has previously been part of successful efforts to fight the copyrighting of public regulations by the SEC and the state of Oregon.

Actually, since the taxpayers pay for these laws to be created and compiled, isn't it reasonable to conclude that they are in fact the copyright holders, and as such are being unfairly denied access to their own property?

No comments: