It’s All Gone Ore-Gon

In a bit of a twist on recent practice, it seems that the state of Oregon is aggressively asserting copyright over statutes and legislation. In late April the legal resource website Justia, was served with a cease and desist order ((As Blog-ed at by the Legislative Counsel of the State of Oregon pursuant to Justia posting Oregon laws. Interestingly, the state is not claiming copyright on the text itself but on such things as the “arrangement and subject matter compliation… the leadlines and numbering for each statutory section, the tables, index and annotations…” ((From the order posted at Justia ))

While this does seem rather Grinchy (numbering?) it leads to the question, what is the status of legislation and statutes in Canada? Without going into great detail (as there are others far more qualified than I to detail this topic); governments in Canada do retain copyright over legislation and statutes but allow the public to make use of these materials freely. Reproduction of Federal Law Order S.I. 97-115 states:

Anyone may, without charge or request for permission, reproduce enactments and consolidations of enactments of the Government of Canada, and decisions and reasons for decisions of federally-constituted courts and administrative tribunals, provided due diligence is exercised in ensuring the accuracy of the materials reproduced and the reproduction is not represented as an official version.

Interestingly, this order does not cover Provincial jurisdictions, but the provinces generally abide by the spirit of the above order. Generally speaking residents tend to view these materials as public property and jurisdictions that get in messy fights over these types of things risk being on the losing side of a public relations battle. That being said, the resolution of the dispute in Oregon has the possibility of being very interesting, especially for us types that are interested in technology and legal research.


  1. Certainly Ontario’s official policy is that it holds copyright in statutes and regulations, but it does not require express permission. Hereis the official statement of this policy.

    In short, it is much like the federal policy, though Ontario insists on express acknowledgement of Crown copyright.

    I am struck by the stress on accuracy of reproduction in both federal and Ontario notices. Is accuracy of copying an appropriate preoccupation of an owner of copyright? Is that an element of a moral right, and does the Crown have moral rights as well as the rest of copyright?

    One might have thought that inaccurate reproductions of Crown legal materials would be quickly sanctioned by the market, which would dry up for such materials. But at what point can it really be said that inaccuracy violates the licence to use the copyrighted materials?

    All this is of course separate from whether the Crown SHOULD claim copyright. But it’s a little odd to see something like “Ontario Provincial Offences”, the entire book being straight from the Queen’s Printer, except for a copyright notice for the legal publisher who assembled them… Who’s kidding whom? (Yes, I know there is copyright in typography etc, but seriously!)