More than 4,000,000 attempts to read US law have failed since a court ordered Public Resource to take it down


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/12/12/more-than-4000000-attempts-t.html


#2

Kafka, however, is in the public domain.


#3

I’ll bet you it reads just fine on the dark web, if you can find it among the drug sales and kiddie porn.


#4

Can somebody explain to me what is going on behind the curtain here please.


#5

I’m pretty sure you can request a copy of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act which requires federal agencies to use cooperatively developed standards, particularly those developed by standards developing organizations.

Thus organizations like the ATSM are not federal entities and have no obligation to make their standards free. Anyone can certainly pay for them however.


#6

Basically, there are safety standards that have been written by corporations, that have then lobbied for them to be put into effect with the force of law. However, those standards remain copyrighted, and are not publicly available.

So, in effect, there is a law that you can violate, but without paying a bunch of money you are not allowed to know what that law is.

This causes a major issue with the concept of a free society. If you’re allowed to have “secret laws” that you can enforce on people without allowing them to know those laws, you have an easy roadmap to tyranny. You can try say, “it’s just technical standards - it’s not like the average citizen can be jailed over those.” Sure, maybe … but the issue is that if any law is allowed to be secret, then every law can be made secret.

[quote=“bcsizemo, post:5, topic:91050”]
Thus organizations like the ATSM are not federal entities and have no obligation to make their standards free. Anyone can certainly pay for them however.
[/quote]But the issue is that these “standards” have been made into law, without the contents of these standards being in the law itself. And, due to the wonders of copyright, ATSM can charge whatever they feel like in order for you to read the “law” they have written. If they’re so inclined, they could change prices on their publications to $15,000,000 per page, and those who work in the industries covered by these laws would either have to pay up, or be breaking the law by doing work without meeting the legally-mandated standards.


#7

Thank you for the understandable explanation Rizz. So what’s in it for the corporation that writes the safety standards? Is it that they get to control the standard in their favor or is there more too it than that.

And yes I understand that the inequality of the law is based on someone’s financial position, among possible other anti-competitive tactics.

In other words. No justice for all. This reminds me of a situation where I had a landlord that would not enforce the rules of his own leasing agreement and there was nothing I could do about it because no lawyer would take the case.


#8

ASTM International is a 501©(3) non-profit corporation that creates voluntary standards for industry. Selling copies of their standards is one of the main ways they fund themselves, and has been for over a century. Governments like to incorporate those standards into law by reference because they’re already in use by industry and it’s easier than making up new standards from scratch.


#9

Their argument is that the costs involved in developing building codes and the like are significant, needing plenty of scientific and engineering resources, and having a relatively limited audience, so how are they supposed to recoup their outlay without being able to charge for their work product? Plus, the price of their I.P. is a drop in the bucket for any significant construction project, so the situation continues without most customers making much of a stink about it.

Of course, that elides the argument that expenditures in the broad public interest shouldn’t be left to market forces. Firefighters don’t charge you money before turning on the hoses.


#10

I’m not so sure about this…


#11

I should have specified “in civilized areas.”


#12

When you don’t have access to your country’s law documents, it’s time to move to a better country.


#13

Sure organizations like ASTM or UL could charge whatever they want, but in short order people would move to new/different standards that were more cost effective. And as far as I know something like the ASTM standards aren’t law, at least not like an ordinary citizen would experience. You can make some argument for something like the NFPA 70A National Electrical Code, but residential versions are free online. Of course that all circles back around to certification, training, standards, quality control, ect… Would you hire an electrician who wasn’t licensed? Would you install switches that didn’t meet the National Electrical Code or that are UL listed? Everything you use and interact with is made better by standards. It also allows interpolability between different countries manufacturing the same things. The same grade of steel from the US should be the same as from China if they are both working from the same standards. As an individual I don’t (or very rarely) need access to these standards, but what I do need is for companies to use them - and that’s the entire reason they exist in the first place.


#14

Actually, they do, via taxes.


#15

Loyola University Chicago chem prof Alanah Fitch has a good overview of the evolution and limits of quantitative lead assay methods, includes a flow chart for selecting among them.

obRand: Most common lead isotopes are Pb-206,207,208 in proportions of 1:1:2 approximately. Polonium-210 decays rapidly to Lead-206 so any toxicological test for polonium is a mass spectrometry hunt for a high Pb-206 ratio.


#16

“Nice house ya got there. Sure would be a shame if sometin was to happen to it.”


#17

#18

[quote=“bcsizemo, post:13, topic:91050, full:true”]
Sure organizations like ASTM or UL could charge whatever they want, but in short order people would move to new/different standards that were more cost effective.[/quote]
Eventually, yeah. But what about for the several years it takes for the laws to change? Those laws won’t simply be revoked overnight. And without a replacement standard they won’t be revoked at all - and that means a long process of determining if the new standard meets safety requirements/etc. These companies could soak the public for years before lawmakers make the change.


#19

Horrible to see blocking ASHRAE, which is short for “American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.” They set the standards on data center efficiency and have successfully pushed all the major manufacturers to accept much wider ranges of temperature and humidity levels. For every degree F you raise data center temps, you can save 3% on your cooling costs (which account for roughly half of the energy cost in the data center). Wondering if those report PDFs are being blocked. Because more people in the private sector don’t know about those changes, we’re running far less efficiently nationwide than we need to.


#20

Firefighters don’t collect taxes.

This last summer I was in Rural VT and the local FD was operating a voluntary ‘roadblock’ with their helmets out for donations. Very effective!