Boxing Day in Mississippi!
First, thanks so much to all of you have signed up as backers. There was a really nice article by Nancy Scola about the campaign and it's been great to see all the tweets of support from friends old and new.
Public safety codes are one of example of EDICTS OF GOVERNMENT. These are the laws by which choose to govern ourselves as a people and the rule of law says we must all know what those rules are. Another example of EDICTS OF GOVERNMENT are state laws passed by legislatures. You'd think there would be no question those are not under copyright, but believe it or not 8 states in the U.S. still assert control over who will read their laws and what they may say about them.
In May of this year, we picked 5 states and purchased their Official State Code. We scanned them, and made them available on the Internet Archive and for bulk access on our site. We've been bickering with the governments of Idaho and Georgia, but one of the states we hadn't heard from was the great State of Mississippi. I had sent their Speaker of the House and Attorney General a copy of their scanned code on a George Washington Thumb Drive.
Well, yesterday we received a Certified Letter from the Attorney General's Special Assistant Attorney General demanding that we remove these materials from the Internet and all other electronic or non-electronic media. There was no email address, so I proceeded to prepare a 67-page return reply with Exhibits A-L. I thought folks might be interested in the 7 steps of the production process.
You may read the full text of our reply to the Special Assistant Attorney General as a PDF file. You may wonder why all the hooptedoodle and fancy printing? We want to send a message that we're very serious about this and that posting the Mississippi Code was not a casual hack, but a deliberate and carefully considered decision to make the laws of the states available to citizens. I've been presenting these kinds of issues to governments for over 20 years, and I've learned that you have to show determination, and nothing shows determination like a professional-grade rubber stamp.
Our hope is very much that this turns out the way a similar dispute in Oregon did, when we posted the Oregon Revised Statutes a few years ago. They called a joint hearing of the House and Senate committee with purview of this matter, asked us and citizens of Oregon to testify, and then unanimously waived copyright because it was the right thing to do. The result in Oregon was a flowering of innovation as new sites popped up that gave people much better access to the laws. I'm hoping for the opportunity to go to Jackson, Mississippi and discuss the matter.
Code is law. Copy that code.