Public Knowledge Calls for Court to Protect Rights to Access the Law

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Today, Public Knowledge filed an amicus curiae brief in the case ASTM v. Public Resource. The case concerns Public Resource’s copying of model building codes and educational testing codes, which had been enacted into federal law and regulations. The standards organizations sued Public Resource for copyright infringement based on the copying of those legally-enforceable codes. The case is currently on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The case is expected to be argued next year.

The amicus brief, filed on behalf of a coalition of 62 organizations, companies, former government officials, librarians, innovators, and professors of law, asks the appeals court to permit Public Resource’s copying of the text of model codes enacted into law and not find it to be a copyright infringement.

The following can be attributed to Charles Duan, Senior Staff Counsel for Public Knowledge:

“The right of the people to read the words of the law is the most fundamental of rights. Democracy does not work when the law can be concealed from view or when citizens can be forced to pay tolls to access the rules that govern them. For two hundred years, copyright law has been consistent with these important principles, and courts have said that copyright cannot prevent copying of the words of the law.

“We call on the D.C. Circuit to continue this unbroken tradition and ensure that public servants like Public Resource, who seek to educate the public on the law and allow all people to read it, are not deterred by private companies asserting private copyrights. Our brief reviews numerous important reasons why access to the text of the law is fundamentally important to democracy, including promoting technological innovation, eliminating discriminatory laws, overseeing algorithms and artificial intelligence in the justice system, and protecting free speech and public discourse.

“We hope that the court will recognize the serious importance of this case and of the right of the public to access the words of the law.”

You may read the brief here.

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