Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In Oregon, a manual on Public Records is NOT Public

We just wrote about how some Boston City Hall employees were deleting emails so they would not be subject to Public Record Laws. But in Oregon, Public Record laws are taking an interesting turn.

The state attorney general publishes a manual for dealing with public record requests, and sell it for $25. He (not personally, his office) also claims copyright over this (public) manual

Oh, the irony.

But lets look at the mundane issue first. He claims the $25 is the cost of publishing the hard-copy version of the manual. Yeah? Hasn't he head of PDF files, and "click here to download"? I know Oregon has lots of trees, but shouldn't he at least pretend to care?

Next: if he can not claim an exemption from the public records law, then he is required to provide this to, hey presto, THE PUBLIC. How can he (or his office) claim copyright to something created with public funds?

So a professor at University of Oregon has challenged him by posting a scanned copy of the manual on his blog.

Every 2 years the Oregon DOJ publishes the "Oregon Attorney General's Public Records and Meetings Manual", a very useful guide to public records law. It's essential reading for people trying to use their right to get public records from Oregon government agencies. The DOJ has been trying to keep me from redistributing this manual, on the grounds that they own the copyright to it. Trying to use copyright law to keep the public from getting information about how to get public records strikes me as wrong, so I've posted the manual online at my official UO faculty website. As the email below explains, I am posting this despite the fact that the AG's office has explicitly warned me not to redistribute this manual. Here are the links. (now fixed)

Any bets on when the attorney general will blink? I am predicting around 4:55 PM local time in oregon on Friday, 18th September 2009.