Carl Malamud, rogue archivist, in Wired

Wired's Ryan Singel's done a great profile on Boing Boing pal Carl Malamud, the rogue archivist who's taking all the public material the government charges money to access and putting it on the web for free.

If you want to search federal court documents, it's not a problem. Just apply online for an account, and the government will issue you a user name and password.

Through the postal service.

And once you log in, the government's courthouse search engine known as Public Access to Court Electronic Records or PACER, will charge you 8 cents a page to read documents that are in the public domain – a fee that earned the federal judiciary $50 million in profits in 2006.

With its high cost and limited functionality, critics call the system an absurdity in the era of Google, blogs and Wikipedia, where information is free and bandwidth, disk space and processing power are nearly so.

"The PACER system is the most broken part of our federal legal mechanism," says Carl Malamud, who runs the nonprofit open-government group Public.Resource.Org ."They have a mainframe mentality."

Now Malamud is doing something about it. He's asking lawyers to donate their PACER documents one by one, which he then classifies and bundles into ZIP files published for free at his organization's website. The one-year-old effort has garnered him 20 percent of all the files on PACER, including all decisions from federal appeals courts over the last 50 years.

Online Rebel Publishes Millions of Dollars in U.S. Court Records for Free (Image: Carl Malamud, by Joi Ito, under a CC Attribution license