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State electronic database of laws sealed from free public access

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State electronic database of laws sealed from free public access10/09/95 Mississippi--The state of Mississippi recently entered the brave new world…

State electronic database of laws sealed from free public access

10/09/95

Mississippi–The state of Mississippi recently entered the brave new world of computerized statutes, but neither the press nor the public have free invitations to join, according to a statement made in mid-August by the Mississippi attorney general.

Mississippi’s contract with a private publisher for the electronic housing of state laws seals off free public access to the newly created database, the attorney general declared.

An opinion by Attorney General Mike Moore asserts that certain sections of the Mississippi Code exempt the code itself from the public access mandate of Mississippi’s Public Records Act.

The state’s contract with the publisher gives the publisher the exclusive right to distribute and sell sets and volumes of the electronic version of the code. The contract limits the state to “reasonable, non-profit uses of the tape, disc, or other medium by state departments, agencies, boards, commissions and political subdivisions” for governmental purposes and academic research. The AG opinion makes no mention of any limits set on the price that the publisher charges for the electronic version.

The opinion also said the Public Records Act, while not applicable to the state’s efforts to electronically maintain statutes, mandates public access to the state code and constitution via the State Law Library and county libraries. (Mississippi Attorney General Opinion Letter to Rickey Gray, August 14, 1995)