The Public Access Crusade of Carl Malamud

Friday, July 23, 2010


Despite being public property, government documents are not necessarily free or easy to obtain. Carl Malamud of Public.Resource.Org details his decades-long quest for open access to "America's Operating System."

Comments [10]

Matt from Arlington, VA

I don't find the C-Span incident so funny. C-Span operates through an agreement with The Speaker and should seek to enforce that agreement in order to protect the entirety of the agreement.

Aug. 01 2010 10:30 AM
Vicki Szymczak from Brooklyn, NY

I also had never heard the story behind EDGAR - i'll be sure to tell my law students about it in research class.... or maybe I'll just let you tell it!

Jul. 26 2010 08:30 PM
Carl Malamud from Sebastopol, CA

Hey, [5] Clifford Chamney ... that was not a link error. Public.Resource.Org is indeed at ... the link you're pointing to is some click harvesting operation.

Jul. 26 2010 10:47 AM
Erich Riesenberg from Des Moines, Iowa

IleanaDU, have you ever used Pacer?

It publishes more than simply opinions, it publishes the dockets, claims in bankruptcy, much more than I can find at the law library.

Westlaw and Nexis do not simply pull data from Pacer, and if they did, no one would pay the markup.

Very different data.

Jul. 25 2010 08:44 PM
Clifford Chamney

Great piece, Thank you. Link error: it is, not

Jul. 25 2010 05:04 PM
Cathy J

You are my hero!

Jul. 25 2010 04:15 PM
Brian Ahier from The Dalles, OR

Touché S Block!!!

Jul. 25 2010 01:59 PM
S Block from NYC

and don't we all agree that "public" broadcasting should use an open commons license to make all of their materials available to we who pay for it?

public broadcasting is constantly telling us how it's "ours" and we pay for it, yet they lock up our material behind copyrights. why?

Jul. 25 2010 10:30 AM

All court cases that are available in proprietary databases are also available in non-proprietary form. Each state publishes its own set of of volumes of court decision. Just they're not all available digitally yet. You can got to any law school library and see & copy the court decisions. It's what we all had to do once upon a time.

I'm not justifying Westlaw & Lexis, but they made this stuff digital a long time ago and that did cost them some money. I imagine they've more than made up that cost by now.

Also, Westlaw uses a classification system for legal concepts in court decisions which is their own work and is copyrighted. They go through each decision and list each legal concept that appears in the decision at the beginning of each court case. They are not a part of the legal decision, just a guide for searching and understanding the case.

Jul. 24 2010 04:34 PM
Erich Riesenberg from Des Moines, Iowa

Thank you for this. It is fascinating to hear how EDGAR came about.

Regarding Pacer, one point is without free access and alerts (alerts appear to be available only to lawyers) Pacer provides important market information on business decisions to certain market segments. It is selective disclosure of material information, which would be illegal if the companies themselves were selectively releasing the information.

Jul. 24 2010 01:46 PM

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