Heroic, again

"If you make government information free and easily accessible, there’s no telling who’ll start using it or what good ideas will spring up. “Every time I put something online there’s a huge audience,” says [+Carl Malamud], founder of Public.Resource.Org, a nonprofit that advocates for government transparency. “The industry guys think the only audience is industry types and Ralph Nader.” Now Malamud’s taking on the best practices for construction, industry, and manufacturing. They’re written by hundreds of nonprofits known as “standards development organizations.” About 3,000 of these standards are referenced but not fully spelled out in federal law. Let’s say you’re building a hospital for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Federal law says you need to follow the “Life Safety Code,” a set of rules on how to prevent fire, smoke, and toxic fumes from injuring tenants. To get a print copy of the code you’d have to send a payment of $82.95 to the National Fire Protection Association, which wrote it. Malamud argues that the code is a law —and therefore part of the public domain— and should be distributed freely. NFPA maintains that it holds a copyright on its standard. Malamud is forcing the issue. Last month he bought and copied 73 different standards and boxed them with American flag packing tape. He sent the packages to the 10 organizations that wrote the standards to “put them on notice” that he plans to publish the specs online beginning in May. He’s been doing something similar over the last five years with state building codes, gradually uploading them to the Web after a federal appeals court ruled they’re part of the public domain. Not one standards organization has sued him to uphold its copyright on those codes. Malamud is hoping for the same result with the federal standards. “We are very serious about doing this and intend to see it through to completion,” he says...."

#oa #openaccess #law
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