PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota’s Code Commission decided Wednesday the State Library can make legislative records from 2004 through 2018 available to the public through the library’s internet site.
Collection services librarian Brenda Hemmelman showed the commission members and their staff how the website works. Volumes from 2003 back through 1889 statehood are already there. She also presented a memo that explained how to reach the site.
“We have all the session laws and they are current to the present time,” she said.
The commission also received a letter of support for the digitization project from the University of South Dakota law-school library staff.
Senator Art Rusch, a Vermillion Republican, asked whether the current publisher of the code consented to internet publication of the legal annotations that appear in the South Dakota law books.
Code counsel Wenzel Cummings said the topic wasn’t something he had discussed.
Commissioner Doug Decker of Pierre, who previously was code counsel, said there is an exception to copyright law that exempt educational purposes. “My default position is to look at the contract,” Decker said. “There may be a way to address this statutorily too.”
Hemmelman said the legislative collections are used for purposes that qualify as “truly educational.” She said the State Library receives inquiries from researchers both in and outside South Dakota, as well as from law-school students outside the state.
Rusch, a retired judge and state’s attorney, said lawyers also use the collections for preparing their arguments and that was why he was concerned.
Chairwoman Maggie Gillespie, a lawyer who represented the Hudson area of southeastern South Dakota as a Democrat in the state House, suggested the Code Commission and the Legislature needed to “pin this down.”
“It’s up to the user to make sure they don’t violate copyright,” Gillespie said. She added, “The commission just needs to know (the answer).”
Cummings said he would talk to lawyers for the current publisher and the previous publisher and seek letters from them about the copyright question.
Gillespie thanked Hemmelman for the library’s work. Rusch described the project as “immensely valuable.”
Decker called for the commission to approve the next phase covering the sessions from 2004 to 2018. “I think this is a good idea,” he said.
Hemmelman clarified, “It’s probably not something that would be done right away, in a month or so.” She said it likely would take a year.
“We really appreciate it,” Gillespie told her.