State Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, proposed a bill this session at the State House that would have modernized Oklahoma's laws, enabling online newspapers like this one to post legal notices.
Legal notices are notices that are required by courts for certain legal proceedings. Newspapers are currently the only legal venues for such notices, because state law requires that a legal newspaper be one that is delivered at least partially through the mail and is printed on paper.
Faught's bill would have revised the requirements for a legal newspaper to include online news sources that could demonstrate longevity and readership.
The misnamed state "press" association - Oklahoma Press Association, which requires that its members be newspapers printed on paper - lobbied successfully to kill the bill on the grounds that they are the caretakers of an archive of legal notices that are published, receiving clippings of published notices from newspapers that pay to have them archived.
Though there are programs in place that could immediately and permanently capture published notices, archiving them in a central database, the OPA still fought against the measure.
Therefore, residents are still currently required by Oklahoma law to either subscribe to or buy copies of print newspapers in order to see legal notices that may affect them. Which means - at least in a market like Muskogee, where MuskogeeNOW.com enjoys five times the daily readership of the print newspaper - most readers will never see legal notices that may affect them.
In effect, web sites like MuskogeeNOW.com are forbidden by state law from competing for that business, and the big companies that profit from that business have gone all-out to protect their monopoly on it.
We are disappointed in the result, but we will continue to fight for the right to compete in an open marketplace to bring legal news to readers who aren't first required to pay to read it.