Copyright, Technology, and Access to the Law

I’ve just released Copyright, Technology, and Access to the Law: An Opinionated Primer:

Recently, the state of Oregon has used copyright law to threaten people who were publishing its laws online. Can they really do that? More to the point, why would they? This essay will put the Oregon fracas in historical context, and explain the public policies at stake. Ultimately, it’ll try to convince you that Oregon’s demands, while wrong, aren’t unprecedented. People have been claiming copyright in “the law” for a long time, and at times they’ve been able to make a halfway convincing case for it. While there are good answers to these arguments, they’re not always the first ones that come to hand. It’s really only the arrival of the Internet that genuinely puts the long-standing goal of free and unencumbered access to the law within our grasp.

This isn’t an academic piece. Instead, it’s designed to bring nonlawyers and people outside the open-access-to-law movement up to speed on the basics of the history, the context, the principles, and the law. Along the way, it tells some interesting stories. I hope you’ll find it equal parts informative, entertaining, and inspirational. Please have a look.

UPDATE 2008-06-24: Ed Felten has a good blog post running through the policy implications in a page.