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Tell the IRS that mountains of DVDs are a stupid way to distribute public records

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez, "I just finished ripping 30 DVDs from the IRS. This is the monthly feed of nonprofit tax returns. I now have 7,442,564 of these returns spinning on the net. I've had it. This year, the IRS upped the cost of this feed to $2910. I've already spent $16,137 on this brain dead format. For 2 years, I've been writing to the IRS to suggest better ways. Dropbox anybody? An FTP server?"

Read the rest

Tax returns for 6,461,326 tax-exempt organizations now indexable by search engines and available for free downloads, thanks to Resource.org

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez,

If you want access to all the tax filings of US nonprofit corporations, the IRS will sell you sets of DVDs for $2580 per year of data. We acquired all of these filings from 2002 to the present, a set of DVDs weighing 98.7 pounds. I'm pleased to report that all 6,461,326 of those returns are now successfully extracted and available on our new bulk data feed.

This data really should be available directly from the IRS at no charge. Accordingly, we've drafted a deed of gift offering the system back to the government.

Until the .gov people do take it over, we're offering access to all 5 TBytes of data using the http, ftp, and rsync protocols. Our hope is that developers will come up with lots of new uses for this information. In order to make the database even more useful, we've started working with Captricity to extract data from the forms and make it available as computable data (e.g., CVS files instead of TIFF images!).

Once search engines such as Google finish indexing the data, the tax filings of nonprofits will show up in the search results. When you search for a nonprofit, the first thing you see ought to be their home page. But, the next thing you ought to see are things like how much they pay their CEO, how much revenue goes for fundraising, and if they spend money to lobby public officials.

Nonprofits in the US had $1.87 trillion in 2009 revenues and it is these periodic filings that make the nonprofit marketplace work properly, just like SEC EDGAR filings help make the corporate markets work properly.

Reports of Exempt Organizations (Thanks, Carl!)

Open-data Cities Conference in Brighton, England: turning municipal governments into open data collaborators

Adam sez, "The first Open-data Cities Conference takes place in Brighton, England next week. It's aimed at local councils and government agencies who want to open up more of their datasets, and giving them ideas and practical help on how to do it. There's some good speakers, including Tom Steinberg from MySociety and Rufus Pollock from the Open Knowledge Foundation."

The high-profile conference – the first of its kind in the United Kingdom – will focus on how publicly-funded organisations can engage with citizens to build more creative, prosperous and accountable communities.

It will be attended by more than 200 people who believe the value of public data is greatest when it is freely and openly shared. They will be leaders from the public sector, arts and cultural organisations, and creative and digital industries.

The focus will be on the opportunities to improve the lives of more than 10 million citizens in the UK’s biggest cities.

Open-data Cities Conference (Thanks, Adam!)

Open medical knowledge saves lives: Oppose H.R. 3699

Here's a terrific article by Gilles Frydman at e-patients.net advocating for opposition to H.R. 3699, aka The Research Works Act (RWA). The bill before Congress would seriously impede "the ability of patients and caregivers, researchers, physicians and healthcare professionals to access and use critical health-related information in a timely manner." (@timoreilly via @epatientdave) Xeni