While all federal documents in the US are under the public domain, state governments don’t always follow that rule, and the state of Oregon has a history of trying to lock up its documents. Last year, there was some attention generated when some people uploaded copies of certain Oregon laws. Yes, it seems positively ridiculous that the state might claim copyright over the laws people are expected to follow. The state claimed that it was just complaining about the fact that the laws were scanned from its own book, with its own notes and page numbers — and that it wouldn’t complain if people had just copied the law. But that’s a weak excuse, and the state backed down later.
However, Oregon is back in the news on a similar issue, as Slashdot points us to the news that a professor is challenging the state’s attorney general to sue him after he scanned and posted a state-produced guide to using public-records laws. You would think, again, that the state would want such a document spread as widely as possible, as it would better help Oregonians understand the law. But the state claims it needs to sell the book for $25 to cover production costs. That doesn’t seem like much of an excuse. The fact that the state needs to produce a guide to understand its own laws seems troubling enough. Then locking them down with a copyright claim just makes it that much worse.