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Who owns the law?

According to Oregon, the law is the exclusive property of the state. When Justia.com, a website devoted to making the law available for free online, tried to post copies of the Oregon Revised Statutes, it received a cease-and-desist letter from the state’s Legislative Counsel Committee threatening a lawsuit for copyright infringement.

There is nothing preventing states from copyrighting works. But the idea that democratically enacted laws belong to the state and can only be reproduced with permission is not only wrong, it is frightening. People should not be forced to pay for the privilege of seeing, or even copying, the laws that govern them.

Fortunately, Justia has decided to stand up to the threats. We hope they win.