The state of Georgia is claiming that an open records activist broke copyright law and committed an act of terrorism simply because he posted the full, annotated versions of the state’s legal code online.
In a lawsuit filed last week, Georgia officials accused Carl Malamud of Public Resource.org of engaging in an 18-year “crusade to control the accessibility of U.S. government documents” when he scanned and reposted the annotated version of the Georgia legal code. The code is used by courts to make decisions on the law.
The state, in the suit, also “points directly to the annotated version as the official laws of the state.”
The basic legal code for Georgia is available for free online and in print, but the state claims in its suit that information contained in the annotated legal code is copyrighted. The annotated legal code is only available for $378 through legal publisher Lexis Nexis or by navigating a series of steps via the Georgia General Assembly’s website.
Malamud believes that public laws should not be subject to copyright protection—and he says the courts have generally upheld that view in previous rulings.
The lawsuit also cites a remark made by Malamud in 2009 describing his efforts to post government documents online as “standards terrorism” to accuse the digital activist of committing acts of terrorism.
So he posted the laws formulated by the state of Georgia with taxpayer money, but because the state would rather collect nearly $400 for a copy of this law, Malamud is now a terrorist? Can you follow the twisted logic on that?
The state also complains in the suit about Malamud’s online donation campaigns which he uses to fund his operations and it argues that it cannot maintain online records on its annotated legal code without charging residents to access the documents.
Prior to this action by Georgia, Oregon had also threatened to sue Malamud for copyright violation, but it has since retreated from those threats.