Publishing America's for-pay, private laws - legal piracy

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez,

On March 15, Boing Boing kindly allowed me to use this august forum to serve notice on 7 government officials and 10 of the CEOs of the $1-billion/year industry of standards people. The issue was privately-developed public safety standards that were incorporated into U.S. law, but only available by paying big bucks. We asked the government and the standards people to send us their comments by May 1 as to why the law shouldn't be available for all to read.

There have been no such comments received, so today we're making available for public inspection 317 legally-mandated documents, most of why have been previously unavailable on the net. To properly document this open source release, Tim O'Reilly, Jennifer Pahlka, and the 2012 Code for America fellows joined me in an Internet town hall.

Although Public.Resource.Org received no comments from the standards people, this doesn't mean they haven't circled the wagons. Tuesday [today], the Department of Commerce is hosting the CEOs of the biggest standards bodies in a big standards summit. We asked to participate as did a number of other public interest groups, but we didn't make the cut.

Although all these Standards Development Organizations are non-profits, they do quite well for themselves. In fact, the 5 nonprofit CEOs attending this meeting (which is conveniently not webcast and isn't taking questions or comments from the net), the average salary is $633,061. The standards people claim they need the money, but I don't think they need nearly as much as they're making and, in any case, you can't have a democracy if the citizens don't know what the law is. I hope everybody can take a few minutes to look at these standards and make your voice known here on Boing Boing or directly to your government. (This isn't just a U.S. issue, by the way, and we're now preparing a release of public safety standards for other countries.)

If you're interested in other links, you might consider:

* One Man's Quest to Make Information Free (Bloomberg Business)
* Making Laws More Public (On the Media)
* Why building codes should be open

Free archive of for-pay laws