Today (January 4, 2021), I called Mr. John Dillard who acts as a lawyer for "AAFCO", a group of public employees operating as a private corporation. This group of public employees holds meetings twice a year so they can create "official feed definitions" for pet food and animal feed ingredients. Essentially, public rulemaking is being done in "private" at these meetings, and then the public employes ensure their "regulatory work" is copyrighted. FDA has been heavily involved in this private process as well.
When public employees write an "official feed definition", most then "reference" that official feed definition in their state laws. My conversations with various state feed control officials over the past few years has confirmed that once most states adopt "aafco feed definitions" into their state's feed law, those definitions then become law.
Once those definitions become law, citizens are met with a bizarre battle from state feed control officials, who have often stated the feed ingredients are "copyrighted" and therefore, can not be provided via email or posted on the state's regulation website.
Hold on...what? Public employees, including the FDA, are all attending AAFCO meetings to perform what is essentially public rulemaking. They then adopt the feed ingredients they craft in the private meetings into their state law, and then refuse to provide public copies of what are now official "regulations" in their states?
Yes, it's not the Twilight Zone. This is real life. This is the honorable pet food regulatory industry, front and center. Public employees state that citizens can "purchase" the official ingredients directly from AAFCO, providing even more funding to these public employees operating through a private guise.
When Illinois Department Of Agriculture refused to provide me with regulations, when their own statutes say that the material adopted by reference must be available for copy, I filed suit against Illinois for their unlawful actions. Since then, other states have relented in their obsessive refusal to provide citizens with regulations. Initial refusals in Washington and Colorado both eventually resulted in each state giving up their fight, and providing copies of what they adopted as their "regulations".
I took detailed notes during the call, and the below is a memorialization of the call. I attempted to be as specific as possible.
Kohl: My name is Kohl Harrington. I'm calling regarding a matter of AAFCO, the official publication. I see in communication that you say it's copyrighted material. I'm trying to understand "who" exactly owns that copyright. I can't get an answer of "who", which person, owns that copyright.
John Dillard: AAFCO.
Kohl: An association that's a collection of public employees?
John Dillard: AAFCO being a non profit corporation.
Kohl: Operated by public employees. So they own the copyright?
John Dillard: AAFCO owns the copyright. Not the public employees.
Kohl: Board of directors of AAFCO are public employees. Correct?
John Dillard: That is a correct answer. Yes. The copyright itself is owned by AAFCO, the private non profit corporation.
Kohl: Who owns AAFCO?
John Dillard: It's a non profit corporation. It doesn't have any owners.
Kohl: But it's operated by public employees. So, public employees through the privatization of a non profit corporation, you're stating, is who owns the copyright?
John Dillard: It's not just me saying that. AAFCO owns the copyright.
Kohl: I'm just trying to understand because it becomes a circular argument. AAFCO owns it, but AAFCO is a private non profit, but it's run by public employees because no specific human owns AAFCO. No specific person copyrights this official publication? It's just an entire organization?
John Dillard: It's just like if any other association publishes original material. If a corporation published original material.
Kohl: Even if public employees are being paid on their publicly paid time to write that material?
John Dillard: The material is copyrighted. AAFCO owns the copyright.
Kohl: The public employees, using their publicly paid time, to help craft that material. And then, they copyright it by the guise of a non profit. The issue here is public employees on publicly paid time, doing regulatory work.
John Dillard: It's not a guise.
Kohl: Well, it's not public. That's for sure and that's why it's so confusing. I'd say a private non profit owned by no one, but operated by public employees who are doing their public work in private and then copywriting it, is a guise. Could be public. Should be public. But it's not. It's private. And the public employees then battle citizen trying to access what becomes official and binding regulations in so many states.
My question for you. There's no specific author? It's a general and generic, "aafco"?
John Dillard: AAFCO is the author.
Kohl: AAFCO isn't a human being. There's no specific human being that has originally authored this work, that this copyright is protecting?
John Dillard: AAFCO
Kohl: Again, AAFCO is not a human being. That's not a specific human being originally authoring work.
John Dillard: That doesn't matter.
Kohl: Who submits the material for copyright then?
John Dillard: Talk to a copyright attorney. You'll find that corporations can copyright material.
Kohl: This seems to be a special case with public employees performing public rulemaking, then claiming the material which are essentially regulations, and adopted by almost every state as official regulations in the state, to be copyright.
John Dillard: It's not a special case:
Kohl: That's your argument.
John Dillard: It's not just an argument. It's the law.
Kohl: That's your statement actually. It may be a wrong interpretation of the law. Even if it's the law as you say, it's still shady as heck that public employees are doing this, and battling citizens like this. You don't have an actual person who copyrights the material though.
John Dillard: Talk to a copyright attorney.
Kohl: Who submits it? Sue Hays? Do you submit it?
John Dillard: You do not have to submit material for copyright to receive a copyright. It's protected as soon as it's put to paper, or digitally. Copyright automatically attaches.
Kohl: Why are public employees copyrighting what is essentially regulations and then withholding the material from citizens, saying they need to purchase the material?
John Dillard: I'm not going to engage in this.
Kohl: Public employees are copyrighting material to keep it away from citizens as much as possible. Citizens have to go through a lot of unnecessary battles to obtain what are essentially regulations. Citizens have been threatened with lawsuits from you and your law firm because they try to obtain regulations through public records requests. You threatened me with that when I tried to obtain regulations. You're all spinning it as though I'm trying to obtain copyrighted material when in fact, I only care about obtaining material that are regulations.
John Dillard: Citizens have many opportunities to access the material.
Kohl: It's public rulemaking being done privately. Yet, the material that's adopted as law isn't made public because of this copyright claim which you state you're doing to "vigorously defend". Yet, there's no specific author being protected by that claim. You're saying it's a collection of public employees.
John Dillard: Yup.
Kohl: And those public employees copyright those regulations.
John Dillard: Yes. And you can purchase it. You can go to a state library and access it. It's not unique if you look at the UCC, uniform commercial code.
Kohl: Thank you for your time today Mr. Dillard. I will be compiling all of my notes that I've taken for this call and I will report on this matter to citizens. I hope you have a great day.
PHONE CALL ENDS