Watch This Surprisingly Funny Argument Over the Legal Definition of Photocopier

By Sarah Zhang on at

You know what a photocopying machine is, I know what a photocopying machine is, but this IT guy has decided he does not. This very real transcript from the Ohio Supreme Court follows seven minutes of absurd yet somehow perfectly logical arguments over what a photocopying machine really is—in legal terms.

Brett Weiner created the video re-enactment for the New York Times, but the transcript comes word-for-word from the deposition of an Ohio Supreme Court Case. In 2010, the Cuyahoga County Recorder's Office in Ohio was sued for changing its policies on making documents available to the public. At some point, the county's IT guy was brought in, and they spent 10 minutes going down a legal rabbit hole. Here's a taste of how twisted the conversation gets.

Defendant: When you say "photocopying machine," what do you mean?

Plaintiff: Let me be clear. The term "photocopying machine" is so ambiguous that you can't picture in your mind what a photocopying machine is in an office setting?

Defendant: I just want to make sure I answer your question correctly.

He's just trying to get it right, sir! This particular case never went to trial, and it was resolved when the Ohio Supreme Court decided documents should be made public digitally for $1 per CD. Guess no photocopying machines were required after all.

But the legal definition of technology—particularly new technology that defies existing categorisations—underpins many major issues of the day. When it comes to net neutrality, is the internet a public utility or is it an "information service?" And Aereo, which is being challenged in front of the Supreme Court right now—is it acting like a cable company or just a private company that gives you a personal antenna? It isn't always as easy as, "I know it when I see it." [New York Times]