Court Libraries Ignore Court Rulings

August 12th, 2019

I had a lovely discussion recently with someone named Tracy.  She’s the manager of the Courthouse Libraries of a particular Province in Canada. 

Tracy was friendly and knowledgeable, but she’d never heard of Manson’s Law.  I promised to send her an explanatory note, a copy of the Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) Ruling, and my specific question to her Court Library in an email.

“Good morning Tracy,” I wrote.  Always a good start.

“As discussed, I am inquiring of the [Provincial] Law Library’s intentions with respect to compliance with Manson’s Law.”

See?  There are plenty of publications that quote from the law, and all without paying the people who drafted or lobbied for those laws.  Under Manson’s Law, that’s no longer legal.  All books that quote from law without payment are contraband now, and that’s why Knight’s Code is stacked in a warehouse, unsaleable in compliance with Manson’s Law. 

I pointed this out to Tracy.

“The 2018 FCA Ruling (as enclosed) upheld the 2016 Federal Court Ruling known as Manson’s Law in its entirety, though the latest Ruling is more assertively phrased;

‘Thus, as long as it is original, any writing may be the subject of copyright in Canada.  This would include laws and regulations.’  [para.73]

And again;

‘That law and regulations may be the subject of copyright is indeed recognized’ [para.74]”

Hard to get ‘round that, isn’t it?  Yet the Court’s own libraries still have stacks crammed with contraband books. 

It seems odd that the Court is defying its own Ruling, and I said so to Tracy.  I also pointed out that the FCA’s Justice Webb foresaw this sort of absurdity in his dissenting Opinion within the Ruling. 

“The dissenting Opinion (from P.67),” said I, “outlines certain of the ramifications of the FCA Ruling.  Among these ramifications, annotated guides such as PS Knight’s in electrical law, or those in your library system such as Martin’s Code, those of Carswell, LexisNexis, Thompson Reuters, Evan Ross (etc.) are now essentially contraband publications.  As the contents are private property, publications containing them cannot lawfully be produced or sold or retained without the permission of the owners of the laws quoted within.”

You see where I’m going here, don’t you? 

The last line of my note;  “In this context, could you kindly advise whether the [Court] Library intends to comply with Manson’s Law by removing these publications from public access?”

Well, the reply didn’t take long.  The next day actually, Tracy issued the following two-line response in friendly, upbeat nothing-to-see-here tones;

“Dear Mr. Knight,” she wrote, “Thank you for contacting Courthouse Libraries [of a Province].  We have no plans to remove any of the published works referenced in your email from our collection.”  And then, an overly happy “Thanks!” to close it.

This is pretty typical, we’ve had the same responses from the Court Administration libraries across Canada.  While Manson’s Law bans a lot of books, the libraries in the Courthouses of the land are simply ignoring the ban.  I mean, who’s going to enforce it on them?  The Courts?

In all this, we’re getting in good shape to once again release Knight’s Code this fall. 

The last step to re-release is receipt of the Decision of the Government of Alberta, as mentioned previously, to either bring Queen’s Printer Copyright into compliance with Manson’s Law, or to defy that Ruling by affirming the validity of the current Queen’s Printer Copyright.  The Alberta Government is a bit late in delivering their Decision, it should have arrived in the first week of August. 

We’re waiting, fearing that there’s lobbying afoot, but we’ll report whatever the Government decides and will act in accordance with their Decision.  C’est Ca.