the law

May 31st, 2008 by Romeo Anghelache

If you don’t obey the law and you come with the excuse you did not know it, that excuse doesn’t hold, right? It’s your obligation as a citizen to know the law. Then the law should be published on the Net and should be freely accessible to any citizen.
The responsibility of publishing the law online stays with those who create and use it in lawsuits: the juridical and legislative branches of the state; the responsibility for the practical implementation should stay with the public libraries.

This would come as a second priority, the first one would be to mandate the freely accessible online publishing of the research which has been funded, partially or fully, with public money.

These priorities come naturally from the following principle: the public property deserves at least the same strength of protection as the private property does, because the first belongs to a large group of persons who commonly agreed to call that property public or shared. The current public administrations seem to be focusing mostly toward protecting the private property and this emphasis has to change now, many in a position to administer the public property not only fail in doing so but actively misappropriate it: public libraries buying proprietary software to handle their internal tasks while free-software alternatives are available, public research libraries pouring public money in private pockets by paying access fees to private publishers of public research, government or UN or non-profit agencies pouring public money in private pockets because some trusted public administrators use proprietary software instead of free-software alternatives, technologies or knowledge created with public funds are transferred into private hands so that any member of the general public has to pay again to access them.

Moreover, transferring technologies and knowledge to private hands is a sure way to have them lost for the public at the moment when they cease to create profit for the private group in question. Publicly accessible archives should keep us protected from paying and repaying the wheel’s reinvention.

The (now old) idea is to make a law that puts in place the transparency of handling public money or property: who is responsible for allocating funds for this or that task, the amount of money, the receiver, the date/time and the reasoning behind the choice. This is an archive record: it should appear as a line in a public agency’s blog for any taxpayer/voter to keep an eye on and preserved for historical reference. This is practically feasible because keeping a public point of information access is relatively cheap nowadays with the Net and all.

This law (or another) has to also protect the public property from the abusive use of copyright: for example, a professor/researcher who writes a book about the research he is doing using public funding should be compelled to give up the copyright to the public agency who paid for the research. If a private agency paid for the research, it’s between that agency and the researcher to decide to whom the copyright belongs, it’s a negotiable private matter. However, if the researcher did use infrastructure paid with public money, or performed his work on public premises, the public is entitled to recover the expenses, and this should be stated by restricting the copyright in a precise way.

What’s the meaning of accountability otherwise? It is independent of what the political color your government has, so the transparency/accountability procedures should be specified in a public standard. This public standard is important: there are, today, parliament websites where specific information is extremely hard to find precisely because these information points don’t follow a standard.

Briefly, the subtitle of this law should be: let’s make the bloodsuckers’ lives at least as hard as our own or, in the positive reading, let’s make our lives at least as easy as the bloodsuckers’ lives.

Comments are closed.