The legal question covered in this posting now is
whether an official annotated code of laws is copyrightable.
Greg Bluestein has the story at the Political Insider Blog at Georgia’s legal battle with public records advocate deepens.
The code in question in these legal copyright proceedings is the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, which can be obtained at LexisNexis for $378.
Scans of the work were posted online for free access by the nonprofit PublicResource.org, headed by public records activist Carl Malamud. He claims that laws must be available for free to the public since citizens must know what their rights and obligations are under the law.
The State of Georgia on the other hand claims that their annotated code publication is an "original" work for which copyright can be claimed. We can look here to the "Description" of the work as published at LexisNexis.
"The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) provides users with the official Georgia statutes, fully annotated and including guidance from the Georgia Code Commission. If you live or work in Georgia, the OCGA is the essential reference you need to guide you quickly and efficiently in understanding the Georgia statutory scheme. Key features include:Given that description, a citizen would not know the law of Georgia without this annotated code, even if a simple non-annotated code version were available (probably not).
• 48 volumes plus current cumulative supplement including three index volumes
• Official state statutes, fully annotated with explanatory notes
• Comprehensive index, replaced annually
• Fully annotated cumulative supplements published annually within 75 days of receipt of all acts from the legislature
The Official Code of Georgia's copious annotations help you expand your research and include:
• Decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Supreme Court of Georgia, the Courts of Appeals of Georgia, and all federal cases arising in Georgia
• Opinions of the Georgia Attorney General
• State law reviews
• American Jurisprudence
• American Jurisprudence, Pleading and Practice
• American Jurisprudence, Proof of Facts"
As such, this case goes to the heart of a development which is at the root of very serious problems in the United States of America, that being "the selling out" of publicly owned property (real or intellectual) to private interests for private gain and profit. It is an issue we have posted about before.
The most egregious selling out of America has been the sale of public lands to private interests. We posted previously as follows at Owniots in the posting:
American Homes, Elites, Wealth, Plundered Federal Lands and a Polarized Society of Haves and Have Nots:
"Wealth and land in America are greatly misunderstood topics in a country in which the federal government used to own almost all of the land and today owns 643 million acres of a total of 2.27 billion U.S. acres.This plundering continues unabated in the modern age, partly as regards real property and the continued push to sell out public lands for private gain, but especially in the sphere of intellectual property, where government and public information has become a BIG BUSINESS.
There are 36 million unmortgaged owner-occupied American homes (Bloomberg News 2012), and 68.4 mortgaged homes, which we count to the ownership of the banks and financial institutions. The average national median home lot size is 12,632 square feet or about 1/3 of an acre. 36 million homes x 1/3 of an acre = 12 million acres.
That is less than the 25 biggest landowners in America, who own 20 million acres, i.e. the 25 biggest landowners in America own more land than all American unmortgaged homeowners put together.
Even if we were to include ALL occupied homes, even the mortgaged ones, we would get only 38 million acres. And if we take all homes, including also those not occupied, a total of 132.6 millions homes, the median lot size gives us a total of only 44 million acres.
American homeowners -- and this is the inflated TOTAL -- thus own at best 2% of the land of the USA, and if we use unmortgaged owner-occupied homes as the standard, they own 1/2 of 1% of the total land of the USA. The federal and State governments own somewhere between 42 and 48%, so that 50% of the land of the USA -- the best land for agricultural and economic use, which is mostly East of the Rockies -- is owned by vested private interests.
We were brought to this issue by an article by Ross Douthat at the New York Times on Our Revolting Elites and Romney's famous 47% comment, which shows the extent of the current polarization of wealth, income and politics in the United States.
Jonathat Haidt and Marc J. Hetherington at the New York Times blog Campaign Stops in Look How Far We've Come Apart note, for example, that Congress is so polarized today that it is mathematically impossible to get any worse.
They suggest that polarization may be reduced in coming decades, which we doubt as long as current inequalities of wealth and income continue. People do not part willingly with what they "have", even if they have wealth far in excess of what they sensibly need. So how can "change" be accomplished? History provides sobering lessons to the greedy.
In the United States, only the Civil War led to an abandonment of formal slavery and the economic system affiliated with it (there is still a lot of informal slavery around).
In Europe, two world wars in the past century deposed many of the ruling elites of the Continent, most significantly in Germany and Russia, making way for change and new developments, and even there, you have new ruling elites in spite of the overthrow of the older elites. It is an endless process true to the old saying that "The King is dead. Long live the [new] King."
In some countries, the ruling elites have been retained, and the nobility in the United Kingdom is one example. Robert Home of Anglia Law School writes in Land ownership in the United Kingdom: Trends, preferences and future challenges:
"Unlike much of continental Europe, the UK has experienced little major redistribution of land ownership since the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century, apart from the temporary growth of state land ownership in the 20th century, some of which was reversed during the 1980's."That was the vested system of ownership, rights and privileges that led to the founding of America by the colonists.
Americans -- immigrants all -- wanted to escape that system.
America thus presents a special case, since almost all U.S. land was initially owned by the federal government, i.e. by the people as a whole, and not by the wealthy vested interests we find as owners today. See History of Land Ownership in the United States. Indeed, even today almost half of all U.S. land is owned by federal or local governments, i.e. by the people.
Robert J. Smith (President, Center for Private Conservation & Senior Adjunct Scholar Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C.; Speech to the Eighth Annual Conference on Private Property Rights, PRFA, Albany, N.Y. , October 23, 2004) wrote in Landownership in America that America has the most socialistic form of land ownership on the planet.
The specific statistics are misleading, however, as follows.
Of 2.27 total billion acres in the USA, the federal government owns 643.2 million acres, of which about 1/3 are in Alaska, leaving about 400 million acres or about 20% of all land in the continental United States. Of that land, almost all of that land is in the western part of the United States (mountains, desert).
For example, the federal government owns ca. 83% of Nevada and ca. 44% of California. The best land agriculturally and economically was in the the East and -- because of various government land grants over the years -- much land was gifted into private ownership through various Congressional acts (i.e. the people's land was largely given away by Congress), e.g.
People in America today who rant and rave about the involvement of the federal government in their modern affairs simply have little or incomplete knowledge of American history.
- 94 million acres to the railroads
- 328 million acres were given away to States by virtue of Statehood (e.g. to schools , "land grant" colleges, etc.)
- 591 million acres were given away to private ownership for settlement of land (cheap purchases, homesteading and a lot simply by fraud).
- In modern times a lot of Alaskan land previously owned was also simply given away to Alaska and to the Native Americans.
Rightly or wrongly - it was YOUR money, and it was a massive amount of wealth that was simply gifted, for political reasons, to State and private owners, by your elected representatives in Congress. YOU elected them.
If the federal government had not given away half the land it once owned to private interests over the years, we, the people, would own almost everything, rather than this ownership being in the hands of the wealthy elites who control that land now and want to take all the spoils.
How much does an average American now own in terms of private land? VIRTUALLY NOTHING. Indeed, when we consider how much land an average American owns, we begin to understand the extent to which the country has been plundered and sold out to private interests over the years.
Let us look at the ca. 1.3 billion privately owned acres in the United States. Who owns that land?
We find that there are 132.6 million U.S. homes of which 18.5 million were vacant in the first quarter of 2012, according to Bloomberg News on April 30, 2012, i.e. 114 million homes. We presume the vacant homes are largely owned by banks. According to the Bureau of Census, 31.6% (36 million homes) of owner occupied homes had no mortgage, while the remainder of 68.4% (78 million) were mortgaged, i.e. essentially still owned by banks.
The average national median home lot size is 12,632 square feet or about 1/3 of an acre. 36 million homes x 1/3 of an acre = 12 million acres. Even if we were to include ALL occupied homes, even the mortgaged ones, we would get 38 million acres. And if we take all homes, including also those not occupied, a total of 132.6 million homes, the median lot size gives us a total of 44 million acres for American homes.
American homeowners -- and this is the TOTAL -- thus own at best 2% of the land of the USA, and if we use unmortgaged owner-occupied homes as the standard, they own 1/2 of 1% of the total land of the USA. The federal and State governments own somewhere between 42 and 48%, so that 50% of the land of the USA is owned by vested private interests, a small minority composed of the wealthiest individuals and corporations.
These are surely the same people who are complaining about taxes."
The BUSINESS of publishing official legislative codes and court decisions has been a gold mine for many companies in the past and will continue to be so.
The BUSINESS of publicly financed university and college research that provides commercial companies with their ultimate for-profit products down the road continues similarly, also in the patent field.
The Internet, created originally by the federal government, has gone more and more into private hands who have even demanded recently to get rid of "net neutrality" for their private gain.
The entire BUSINESS of satellite communication, originally financed by public sources, i.e. taxes, now finds itself firmly in the hands of private companies and patents. Even the term "sky" has been taken. Really. By private owners.
Rather than enormous taxes being levied subsequently on the use of these originally GOVERNMENT-financed technologies, you find intellectually limited people in Congress actually getting elected by downing government and singing the praises of private enterprises, who have been robbing that government and the people of the land blind from the beginning.
Mark your political candidates well. Those who go on record against "big government" are often people who have little or no understanding of the development of the USA and its essential technologies and advances.
The BUSINESS of archived scientific research and publication, research originally financed by taxpayer dollars via university and college subsidies and by private donations to educational institutions, winds up e.g. as the publishing business of JSTOR which describes itself as "JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit organization helping the academic community use digital technologies to preserve the scholarly record and to advance research and teaching in sustainable ways. ©2000-2015 ITHAKA. All Rights Reserved. JSTOR®, the JSTOR logo, JPASS®, and ITHAKA® are registered trademarks of ITHAKA." It's all "theirs". Now what about "ours", the public who has already paid for these works over the decades? Do not be deceived by the designation not-for-profit. Users have to pay for this service.
Modern non-profits and for-profit corporations take for free from the public whatever they can get their hands on, and this includes even the words of our own languages. There is no reason, for example, for a company such as Apple to be able to "steal" the word of its company name from us and not have to pay high fees for doing so forever. That firm was not named Wozniak-Jobs because that combination had no instant "good will". The best way to get free "good will" is to take it from the "free" public store of language, and thus, we find our true word for the apple fruit watered down such that a Google search for "apple" leads not to the fruit but to the commercial exploiter of the term.
The word apple has been stolen and is indeed trademarked for a variety of commercial uses. Add an essential word like "retina" to the list, etc. You want to search online for a medical problem involving the retina, but find you have to wade through masses of junk dealing with products of the Apple firm. The public pays continuously for the theft of that word for private gain.
Apple is not alone. Take "Windows" as a trademarked example from the company Microsoft. To top it all off and showing the name of the game, Google has now placed its entire corporate structure under the name "Alphabet". Perhaps one day we will be unable to converse at all because every word will be "owned" by some company.
This word theft from the public continues unabated around the world such that it is today nearly impossible to find "normal" language terms that are not claimed as being owned by somebody, and that, FOR NOTHING, FOR NO COMPENSATION. Frankly, we would assess ENORMOUS taxes on the use of public words as the name of companies or products for private gain, because they are currently STEALING the good will attached to OUR words FOR NOTHING, while at the same time claiming patents on the prior art that they patch together into minimally original products. It is a travesty of justice and a matter of great stupidity on the part of the public and their clueless Congressional representatives.
In closing, we can add that everyone understands perfectly that annotated codes of law demand a massive amount of work by someone, and that annotated codes should probably be copyrightable as long as those same legislative codes in their basic and non-annotated form are published by the government in a timely and regular tempo and are freely and easily available to the citizenry, especially online. However, when the "official" laws are published only as profit-makers, the pattern of exploitation and the sellout of America continues, with public laws becoming commercial money-makers and with access to those laws becoming a matter of being able to pay for that access. Well, that is hardly the "democracy" envisioned by the Founders.