ACLU Files Brief Defending Citizens’ Free Access to State Laws
ATLANTA – The ACLU of Georgia, The American Civil Liberties Union, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Southern Poverty Law Center have filed a friend-of-the-court brief challenging the State of Georgia’s attempt to charge fees for accessing the annotated Georgia code.
The State of Georgia is attempting to enforce a private, for-profit copyright to prevent the public from accessing the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) without paying money. Such copyright laws would require that a citizen pay a fee of $431.61 to access the O.C.G.A, not including tax. The brief, filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, supports Defendant Public Resource’s request for the Court to deny Georgia’s attempt to implement the federal copyright laws in the Georgia code.
“Gouging people with exorbitant fees for accessing their own laws is an outrageous violation of constitutional principles,” said Andrea Young, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia. “This Court should reject Georgia’s latest attempt to charge its citizens for access to the very laws that govern them.”
The only version of Georgia law that the public can access without paying is stripped of the O.C.G.A.’s annotations and therefore fails to inform the public whether a particular law is enforceable, and on what terms. The unannotated code is not recognized as official Georgia state law because it offers only an outdated and inaccurate representation of Georgia Law.
“This Court should not endorse the State’s attempt to profit off the public’s access to the law,” said Vera Eidelman, an attorney with the national ACLU. “By obscuring its official state code in a cloud of expensive copyright, Georgia is upending established precedents and making it nearly impossible for ordinary citizens to access the laws they’re expected to obey.”
The ACLU of Georgia supports the Defendant’s argument because copyrighting state law is unconstitutional and granting copyright in the O.C.G.A would violate the rights of access, freedom of speech, and due process.
A copy of the brief is available here: https://www.acluga.org/sites/default/files/public_resource_11th_cir_amicus_brief.pdf
For more information about the ACLU of Georgia visit www.acluga.org.
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