Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Oh, yes, one more outrage for the morning: the "Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act". It's been settled law for years that you can't have copyright in a mere collection of facts, since there's no original expression involved in the act of setting them all down. The act in question tries to neatly sidestep these rulings by not saying that corporations have can copyright databases, but rather saying just that they can sue anyone who reproduces them. (The distinction is lost on me, but I am not a lawyer). With what consequence?

Peter Veeck felt the brunt of the corporate police. When he posted on his website the municipal building safety codes that all are required to obey, he was sued by a company that claimed to own the building codes.

After long and costly litigation, in 2002 Veeck won the case called Veeck v. SBCCI (PDF file). Judge Edith Jones wrote for the Fifth Circuit en banc: "Citizens may reproduce copies of the law for many purposes, not only to guide their actions but to influence future legislation, educate their neighborhood association, or simply to amuse."

On the last day of the U.S. Supreme Court term in June, the Court let Veeck's victory stand. During the litigation to force Veeck to remove building safety codes from his website, a hundred people perished in the Rhode Island nightclub fire attributed to ignorance about building safety codes.

The anti-capitalist pinko who wrote those words is Phyllis Schlafly...


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