Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What Nigeria Can Teach Oregon

The State of Oregon apparently continues to press its groundless efforts to assert, directly or otherwise, claims in its statutes. Nate Anderson at Ars Technica had an update on May 13th, in which he wrote: "Justia and public.resource.org have since retained counsel to deal with the issue, and their lawyer has already made clear to Oregon that his clients will be posting the entirety of the disputed material by June 2."

Yesterday I came across an article by Emeka Maduewesi in This Day (which presents "African Views on Global News") entitled: "Copyright: Who Owns the Rights to the Laws of Nigeria"? Mr. Maduewesi, a Nigerian who is admitted to practice in both Nigeria and California (he is employed by Townsend and Towsend in San Francisco) reviews the Nigerian copyright act, which doesn't directly address the question. (There is an exception for reproducing copyrighted works that are part of public records, and a provision of the evidence law that seems less helpful to me than to him). He concludes, nevertheless, that:

"Nigerian courts should be hostile to any claim that will infringe on the rights of the citizens to have unfettered access to the laws governing them. In a democratic society, works prepared by government employees -- executive, legislators and judges -- acting within the scope of their employment would be for hire. For this reason, any copyright belongs to the people who elected or paid them to do the work."

Oregon just reported the results of a wonderful democratic activity yesterday, and had the largest rally of the Presidential campaign, 75,000 people. The people get it; now it is up to the government to get it too.

4 comments:

Carl Malamud said...

For those following this issue, we have a handy little reference page up on the net:

http://public.resource.org/oregon

Bystanders are encouraged to do the huna kuna on our drafts.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Colorado makes a similar or identical claim.

Tomasz said...

The Polish Act on Authors rights and Neighboring Rights on February 4 lutego 1994 (Dzienik Ustaw No 24, pos. 83), consolidated text on May 17 2006 (Dziennik Ustaw No 90, pos. 631), with later changes simply says that
Art. 4. The following shall not be protected by copyright:
1) normative texts and the drafts thereof,
2) official documents, documentary material, devices and symbols,
3) descriptions of patents and other protection titles,
4) simple press news.

The Polish Supreme Court held (judgment from 26 September 2001, act signature IV CKN458/00) that official documents and documentary materials should be understood as every piece of document that (i) came from the governmental office or any instutution of the State, (ii) a document that concerns any officila case or (iii) a document that was created during any official proceedings. In this manner all questions that were created for a driving license tests are deemed as "official documents" and thus are not copyrightable.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The Polish statute is fascinating. Does anyone know if that provision is widespread in civil law practice, or is specific to Poland in particular?