Tom MacWright of MapBox has posted You Cannot Have the DC Code, at macwright.org.
Here are excerpts:
You cannot have a digital copy of the DC Code. You cannot have a public domain version of the code, despite it being legally public domain. [...]
You cannot. There is no-one to ask who can give you one and who wants to. The government only has copyright-infected copies, and the contractor has no reason to endanger their information monopoly.
To preclude misunderstandings: this is not a failure of the [DC] Council itself. [...]
The Council composes and publishes its bills and makes every effort at transparency: this is a failure of the last step, in which the bill is compiled and de-facto owned by a private contractor.
This is not a question of hacking or technology. Writing a scraper for the portal is an afternoon project, but is illegal, and can be construed as a felony by the federal government.
This is a failure of the public/private contracting system and the government’s ability to write strong and precise contracts that are geared for the internet era.
This is a failure of Westlaw and LexisNexis. It’s possibly a reiteration of a well-known court case focused on their previous attempt to do the same thing: monetize what should be a basic unit of democracy.
Next up: how this is possible, what it means, and how we can fix it.
Click here for a storify of some responses to the post.
For more details, please see the complete post.
Ed Walters of Fastcase has written powerfully about this problem in his post, Tear Down This Paywall: The End of Private Copyright in Public Statutes, at VoxPopuLII.
Waldo Jaquith has developed a free and open platform for statutory codes, called The State Decoded.
HT Dan Nagy