That’s the question put forth by the ABA Journal, a publication of the American Bar Association (see story here). Author Victor Li asks this important question at the right time. It’s always been a good and relevant question. However, never before were there so many implications to the answer.
For example, this site, InjuryLawyerDatabase.com was literally created by two guys, one with some legal chops the other with some programming chops, out of a proverbial garage. We downloaded Maryland’s circuit courts’ public records. Two guys. Low budget. Millions of records. If the State of Maryland were to assert copyright protection over the material, it would be problem for us. Even though we believe the data is completely public, it would be a David v. Goliath type of fight.
We believe – like many others believe – that the law and other documents produced by the government are public. The property of no one and/or the property of all of its citizens. I don’t have anything against intellectual property, including copyright. In fact, I assert copyright protection for the work we have done in turning public data into statistics. However, when it’s the law – when it is the government – that’s public domain. It belongs to you, to me, and to everyone. I hope you do something with public data too. The more we look at and analyze public data, the more transparency there is in the process. And transparency and government should go hand in hand.