Georgia accuses public records activist of information 'terrorism'

The state of Georgia has filed a federal lawsuit against a well-known public records activist that claims that he is engaging in a "strategy of terrorism" by publishing an annotated version of Georgia state law on his website.

The document at the center of the debate isn't Georgia's legal code, which is already available freely online. It's an annotated version of state law replete with summaries of important legal decisions and findings by the state Attorney General that's available in print from LexisNexis for $378.

The state contends that the annotated version is an "original and creative work of authorship" that is protected by copyrights and owned by the state of Georgia. Malamud said in an interview that there should be no distinction between the two.

“In America, you’re allowed to speak the law. And that’s what this is about. The law is owned by the people - it’s not owned by the civil servants,” he said. “And to somehow say the annotations are separate - that you can have the sandwich for free but you have to buy the mayonnaise that’s already on it - is ridiculous.”

The lawsuit is the latest in a long pattern of legal tussles between Malamud and state authorities. Oregon officials threatened a legal battle several years ago after a similar fight, but backed down after holding public hearings on the matter. Malamud said he’s now fighting with about six other states over copyright issues.

The negotiations in Georgia have taken a more tortured path. Malamud sent a letter to House Speaker David Ralston in May 2013 enclosed with a thumb drive of the document, declaring his purpose “is to promote access to the law by citizens” of the laws that govern them.

He soon received a cease-and-desist letter from state Sen. Josh McKoon, a Columbus Republican who was writing on behalf of a legislative code revision commission. A flurry of letters between Malamud and state officials preceded the federal lawsuit.

Trial lawyer Max Kennerly, who co-wrote a legal guide published by LexisNexis , raises another concern by asking why the state of Georgia paying LexisNexis to publish an annotated version of the state code. From Kennerly's blog:

It is very hard to come up with a reasonable, public policy-based answer to any of those questions. I would understand if LexisNexis, on its own, created an annotated version of the Georgia Code, copyrighted the annotations, then sold those annotations at a profit. I would similarly understand — though I’d have questions — if Georgia hired LexisNexis to draft annotations which were then provided as a source of information to the public.

But it seems here that we have the worst of both worlds: Georgia is hiring LexisNexis to write annotations that Georgia owns but which are treated like LexisNexis’ copyrighted work. In what world is that okay?

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Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar will headline the event formerly known as the Jefferson-Jackson dinner for Georgia Democrats.

The Sept. 26 event is the party's main fundraiser, and chairman DuBose Porter told partisans to expect a "helluva barnburner of a speech." Wrote Porter:

Georgia could learn a lot from Minnesota—they’ve expanded Medicaid, invested in infrastructure, made education and job training priorities, and asked those at the top to pay their fair share.

Senator Klobuchar’s address will cap off an evening filled with fellowship, inspirational words from Georgia Democratic leaders…and a few surprises we have up our sleeves.

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“Religious liberty” legislation won’t be the only thing on state Sen. Josh McKoon’s agenda next year. The Republican from Columbus posted the following on his Facebook page on Monday:

It is my intention to bring forward legislation in the next legislative session on further ethics reform, including addressing pay to play. Comments I made regarding the real difficulty in crafting effective ethics legislation that curbs conflict of interest in a part time legislature have been intentionally misrepresented by Bryan Long and Better Georgia. Despite the difficulty inherent in drafting such legislation it is a challenge I intend to meet head on. And I can say with pride I have done more than Bryan Long or Better Georgia have ever done to improve ethics laws in our state.

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Peach Pundit reports that a complaint has been filed with the state ethics commission against Taylor Bennett, the Democrat in the House District 80 runoff, accusing the Brookhaven attorney of failing to file his personal financial information in a timely manner.

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Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorna will have a conference call with Georgia supporters at 1:30 p.m. today. Click here to listen in.

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Republican presidential candidate and former Florida governor Jeb Bush recently sat down for a 25-minute interview, in Spanish, with Telemundo anchor Jose Diaz-Balart. During the TV encounter, Bush spoke of his half-Hispanic children and the taunts they have borne because of their skin tone. From the Washington Post:

"I remember one time when my son went to Ocala to play in a baseball game and the team was from Miami," he said. "The majority were Hispanics – my son George has brown skin. ... At one point, I had to describe, or tell him that people like him aren’t the majority. You need to accept it, but move on. Because he was really annoyed because he and his friends -- we don't have that problem in Miami, but in other parts of the country, yes. It was a good lesson to remember that we still don’t have a country of complete justice. You can see it in African American communities too, that there’s still discrimination. But in my life, it’s important to remember that."

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Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., has dropped his support for the pending Senate highway bill, as it advances with the controversial Export-Import Bank attached and still has six years of policy for three years of spending.

Perdue, who had supported starting debate on the bill, voted against a procedural motion that allowed the bill to continue to move late last night, but it still narrowly cleared a 60-vote hurdle -- as adding Ex-Im picked up a few Democratic votes to offset the Republicans who dropped off. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., continued his support.

The Senate is working toward final passage with just a couple of days to spare before the highway trust fund runs out of money on Friday, but House leaders continue to say they won't take up the Senate version, preferring a short-term approach.

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A U.S. Senate push to spend $100 million on grants to local police for body cameras will be led by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. From Politico:

It’s part of a larger effort to find a rare bipartisan accord in a polarized Congress: to reform policing practices and sentencing laws with a full-scale revamp of the criminal justice system — at a time of growing tension between police and inner city communities.

“Ms. Judy Scott, the mother of Walter Scott … said that her goal was to make sure mamas didn’t bury their boys,” Tim Scott said in an interview in a small office in the Capitol basement. “Here’s a part of the criminal justice debate, in my opinion — body-worn cameras — that are proven to be effective. We can stop some of that conversation immediately.”

The 49-year-old Scott’s effort still faces hurdles — namely its price tag, concerns over privacy and whether law enforcement could shield such videos from public view. Moreover, there’s a dispute within Congress over which policing and sentencing laws should be changed now — and how ambitious those efforts should be.

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Two of Georgia's leading flaks are getting hitched. Jen Talaber, a spokeswoman for Gov. Nathan Deal, was engaged to Shawn Ryan, the frontman for the state Department of Public Health, over the weekend.

We anxiously await a press release documenting the proposal, with talking points for the nuptials.

About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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