Creativity & Innovation

Tell Congress: Access To Laws Should Be Fully Open

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Court after court has recognized that no one can own the text of the law. But the Pro Codes Act is a deceptive power grab that will help giant industry associations ration access to huge swaths of U.S. laws. Tell Congress not to fall for it.

A large portion of the regulations we all live by (such as fire safety codes, or the national electrical code) are initially written—by industry experts, government officials, and other volunteers—under the auspices of standards development organizations (SDOs). Federal, state, or municipal policymakers then review the codes and decide whether the standard is good broad rule. The Pro Codes Act effectively endorses the claim that SDOs can “retain” copyright in codes, even after they are made law, as long as they make the codes available through a “publicly accessible” website – which means read-only, and subject to licensing limits.

That's bad for all of us. Anyone wishing to make the law accessible in a better format would find themselves litigating whether or not they are sheltered by the fair use doctrine – a risk that many won’t want to take.

We have a constitutional right to read, share and discuss the law. SDOs have already lost this battle in court after court, which have recognized that no one can own the law. Tell Congress you agree the law should be open to us all and urge them to reject this bill.


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