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'Yes We Scan'

Malamuddata This blog has occasionally chronicled the adventures of Carl Malamud -- who I once described as quixotic -- and his organization His belief is that all primary legal materials produced by the government should be readily available to the public. It is a belief so seemingly simple and obvious that it is surprising he has had to fight so long and so hard to make it happen. This is the guy who, way back in 1994, put the SEC's EDGAR database online, shaming the SEC into eventually publishing the database itself. And he has been fighting this fight ever since, most recently taking on PACER.

If Malamud is a kind of free-access fox clawing at an archaic henhouse of government and commercial legal publishing, he now has a new idea: Put him in charge of the henhouse. Malamud has launched a somewhat audacious but wonderfully rational campaign to have President Obama nominate him to be public printer of the United States, the executive who sits at the helm of the U.S. Government Printing Office.

He calls the campaign "Yes We Scan" and he has assembled a group of big-name supporters as The Committee to Reboot .Gov. The committee is co-chaired by Lawrence Lessig of Stanford law school, David Halperin, director of Campus Progress, and Paul Vixie, president of the Internet Systems Consortium. Its members include Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly Media, Tim Stanley of, Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing, Brewster Kahle of The Internet Archive, Joichi Ito of Creative Commons, Thomas Bruce of the Legal Information Institute, Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation, and Fred von Lohmann of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, to name just some.

Malamud's plank proposes a number of changes in the GPO's operations and in the government's approach to publishing. Among them:

  • Have GPO take the lead in making all primary legal materials produced by the U.S. readily available to the public.
  • Have GPO work with the rest of the U.S. government to bring about radical changes in the ways it presents information on the Internet.
  • Ensure that GPO is itself fully transparent and is a forceful and effective advocate for transparency throughout the three branches of government.

"Access to information is a human right," Malamud says. Critics might say that statement is too strong and has no support in caselaw. Supporters would say, "Give us the caselaw so we can find out." Were public printer an elected position, Malamud would have my vote.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on February 27, 2009 at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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