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United States

Liberating the Laws You Must Pay To Read 223

Writing for Boing Boing, Carl Malamud describes the campaign he's been waging to let U.S. citizens read the public safety standards that have become part of federal law — without needing to pay for the privilege. "These public safety standards govern and protect a wide range of activity, from how bicycle helmets are constructed to how to test for lead in water to the safety characteristics of hearing aids and protective footwear." Despite a U.S. Appeals Court ruling which said 'the law' should be in the public domain, many safety codes are still privately produced and then distributed for a fee, to recoup development costs. "Public.Resource.Org has a mission of making the law available to all citizens, and these technical standards are a big black hole in the legal universe. We've taken a gamble and spent $7,414.26 to buy 73 of these technical public safety standards that are incorporated into the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations." Malamud and his Public.Resource.Org foundation are trying — very cautiously — to make these laws more broadly available. "...even though we strongly believe that the documents are not entitled to copyright protection, and moreover that our limited print run is in any case definitely fair use, if a judge were to decide that what we did was breaking the law, 25 copies of 73 standards works out to $273,750,000 in potential liability. While whales may make bigger bets, we draw the line at $273 million."
Censorship

Photographing Police: Deletion Is Not Forever 482

Geoffrey.landis writes "The courts have now ruled that the public has the right to videotape the police in the performance of their duties. Of course, that doesn't stop the police from harassing people who do so — even journalists, who sometimes have their cameras confiscated. As it turns out, though, they're not always very knowledgeable about how deletion works. I would say that erasing, or attempting to erase, a video of police arresting somebody illegally (How can a journalist be charged with 'resisting arrest' when he was not being arrested for anything other than resisting arrest?) is a clear case of destruction of evidence by the officers. Destroying evidence is obstruction of justice. That's illegal. Why haven't these police officers been arrested?"
Censorship

NYTimes Sues US Gov't To Know How It Interprets the PATRIOT Act 186

hydrofix writes "Techdirt has been following the story of the DoJ's classified interpretation of the PATRIOT Act. Specifically, it's all about Section 215, the so-called 'business-records provision,' which empowers the FBI to get businesses to turn over any records it deems relevant to a security investigation. Senators Ron Ryden and Mark Udall have been pushing the government to reveal how it uses these provisions to deploy 'dragnets' for massive amounts of information on private citizens 'without any connection to terrorism or espionage,' a secret reinterpretation that is 'inconsistent with the public's understanding of these laws.' After NYTimes reporter Charlie Savage had his Freedom of Information request denied, the NYTimes has now sued the government (PDF) to reveal how it interprets the very law under which it's required to operate."

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