Copyright question - bills/laws

Is the text of state or federal laws copyrighted or can they be reprinted elsewhere without first getting permission?


The text of US State and Federal Laws is public domain - however, that does not necessarily mean that a work which includes the laws is public domain.


All legislation of the Commonwealth of Australia is freely available at the Scaleplus website.

The site does carry a copyright warning:

© Commonwealth of Australia 2004

This work is copyright. You may download, display, print and reproduce this material in unaltered form only (retaining this notice) for your personal, non-commercial use or use within your organisation. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, all other rights are reserved.

U.S. copyright law says that the federal government cannot hold any copyrights on its own behalf.

Una, I’m reasonably sure some state laws have been copyrighted in the past (although I’ve never known anyone to pay much attention to that). Federal law, like everythink produced by teh federal government, is not copyrighted, but that does not necessarily apply to states.


Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but doesn’t your quote say that West’s claim was found to be invalid, and thus their work was indeed public domain?

It does just that, correct. I wrote “not necessarily” because although copyright and IP law is an area of study of mine, I am not a lawyer and I did not want to make a definitive pronouncement from false authority. So although West’s claim may be invalid, there may have been other court cases on related or similar topics that were ruled in the other direction.

I wasn’t able to find any examples of State laws which are currently copyrighted. Perhaps another Doper knows…

In the U.S. at least, the law is uncopyrightable, be it state, federal, or common (i.e., judicial decisions). A close call is whether a model code written by a private organization but adopted into law is still under copyright. The 5th circuit, en banc, said no in Veeck v. Southern Bldg. Code Cong. Int’l Inc., but the court was sharply divided and another court might produce a different opinion should the issue present itself again.

How does this work with codes? Say my township defers to the National Electrical Code. This isn’t a government publication; it’s private. It’s copyrighted, and if you want one, you have to purchase it. If I’m going to do some wiring, and my township’s going to hold me to a standard, shouldn’t I then have the ability somewhere to get a copy of the applicable sections of the NEC freely?