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22 Jul 2018
Carl Malamud's Public.Resource.Org has for over 20 years been putting public documents online so they are easier to find and use. He's been quite successful in getting documents online that were formerly available only on paper, or only by paid subscription.
One project involves putting US laws online. In a lot of cases, laws refer to standards maintained by private organizations. For example, most state building codes require new construction to comply with the National Electrical Code published by the private National Fire Protection Association. There are thousands of standards used in laws around the US, and in many cases the only way to find out what the standard says, and hence what the law says, is to buy a copy from the publisher, or at best to go to a library and read a paper copy.PRO has been scanning and publishing standards on the theory that in the US, laws are not copyrighted, so if a standard's part of the law, it's not copyrighted either. Unsurprisingly, the standards publishers disagreed.
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