- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - The state of Georgia is asking a judge to force a nonprofit organization to stop copying and distributing copies of annotations to the state’s legal code.

The state on July 21 filed a lawsuit against Public.Resource.Org Inc. in federal court in Atlanta. The nonprofit is run by Carl Malamud, an Internet public domain advocate who argues for free access to legally obtained files.

Malamud, who has corresponded with state officials on the matter, said in a telephone interview that he plans to fight the lawsuit.

The nonprofit has been distributing and making available online copies of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated. That includes annotations that feature analysis and guidance added by a third-party publisher and each of those is “an original and creative work of authorship” protected by copyright law, the lawsuit says.

The state is not saying that the text of the statutes itself is protected by copyright “since the laws of Georgia are and should be free to the public,” the lawsuit says. Lawyers for the state note the publishing contract the state has with LexisNexis requires the company to make the statutory text available online for free.

“Carl Malamud has engaged in an 18 year-long crusade to control the accessibility of U.S. government documents by becoming the United States’ Public Printer - an individual nominated by the U.S. President and who is in control of the U.S. Government Printing Office. Carl Malamud has not been so nominated,” the lawsuit says.

The copying and distribution of the annotations is part of a broader plan that is meant to challenge copyright law and force government entities to use taxpayer money to make their documents easily accessible to Malamud, the lawsuit says. Malamud himself has called this strategy a successful form of “terrorism,” the lawsuit says.

“Calling me a terrorist is, I think, completely over the top,” Malamud said.

The state was referring to a passage in his 1992 book “Exploring the Internet,” in which he “made a passing joke about standards terrorism” when describing a confrontation he and others had with the International Telecommunication Union over making standards for telephone operation available so they could be used in building the Internet, Malamud said.

The statutory text in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated cannot reasonably be considered separate from the annotations, Malamud said.

“It’s the official statement by the lawmaking body of the state. You can’t get any closer to being an edict of government than that,” he said.

The official website is also difficult to navigate and requires users to agree to certain conditions, which is problematic because the law should be open and easily accessible to all citizens, Malamud said.

Malamud and representatives of the state have exchanged correspondence, including a July 2013 cease-and-desist letter from the Georgia Code Revision Commission. The lawsuit filed last week was unnecessary, Malamud said, because he offered to come to Atlanta and asked to address the commission but never heard anything.

Georgia’s handling of the situation is starkly different from the way Oregon handled a similar situation, Malamud said. After the state ordered him to take down the Oregon Revised Statutes, both sides threatened lawsuits before state lawmakers decided to hold hearings on the matter and asked him to come. Malamud and a number of other people testified, and lawmakers voted to waive copyright, he said.

Malamud said he also faces similar resistance from government entities elsewhere in the country, and the battle with Georgia is part of a larger fight to make the law easily accessible to the public.


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