[Plura-list] Public Resource sets the law free

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Sat Apr 2 03:55:07 EDT 2022

Read today's issue online at: https://pluralistic.net/2022/04/02/the-brew-of-law/

Today's links

* Public Resource sets the law free: Rogue archivist Carl Malamud strikes again.

* Hey look at this: Delights to delectate.

* This day in history: 2002, 2007, 2012, 2017, 2021

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading


5️⃣ Public Resource sets the law free

We call a lot of people "internet pioneers," but honestly, Carl Malamud is an internet pioneer - and not just because of his groundbreaking work in streaming media. Malamud's most significant contribution is his second act: finding the critical materials that should be universally available and making it so.

In his search for material that should be in the public domain, Malamud - and his tiny nonprofit, Public.Resource - cast a wide net, tackling everything from citizenship test-prep materials to old seed packet art:


But his especial focus has always been the law, something that is both obvious (the law must be public) and odd (isn't the law public?). There are many ways in which "the law" has been enclosed by for-profit entities who argue - against all common sense and common decency - that they must be paid before you can read the law that you must obey.

Generally, Malamud's MO is to identify one of these legal enclosures and just blast away at its paywall, scanning, converting, hyperlinking, formatting, and then posting the laws in question. Unsurprisingly, this tends to land him in court. Generally, I think Carl's okay with that: every time he goes to court and wins, he makes new law (and he loves the law, after all).

Who sues Malamud? Well, there was the State of Georgia, which objected to having its laws out there for all to see (they went all the way to the Supreme Court!):


These days, he's tangling with the Great State of Wisconsin, where access to the publicly financed manual of jury instructions will cost you $500/year (nothing for a white shoe firm, an infinite sum for, say, an incarcerated person working on an appeal):


As Carl says, the rule of law starts with open law:


And nowhere is the law more closed than when it comes to public safety codes. Across the world - but especially in the USA - local and state governments have fallen in love with the idea of "incorporation by reference." That's when a town council writes in its law books that "The plumbing code of Lower Pigsknuckle shall be version 2.1 of the American Society of Plumbers and Pipefitters Standard Plumbing Manual."

In theory, that's a reasonable way to make safety codes - each town shouldn't have to hire experts to create its own hand-rolled plumbing, electric, fire and other rules. But the problem comes with the standards bodies - generally adjuncts to or offshoots of industry associations - that develop these codes. These bodies are nominally nonprofits, but they still charge fortunes - thousands of dollars - to access their documents (some of that money goes to paying for standards development, but their IRS filings reveal that their top officers also skim 6- and 7-figure salaries from those fees).

Which means that if your plumber or electrician assures you that your wiring or pipes are up to code, you have to spend thousands of dollars to check on them, or just take their word for it. It also means that if you think that these codes are deficient, you have to pay to find out their exact wording, and your neighbors have to pay to figure out if you're onto something before they join with you in pressing the city council to amend them. Finally, it means that everyone who ever pays for a plumber, an electrician or other tradesperson is subsidizing these societies, because the cost to access the law is passed along in the prices that the trades charge to their customers.

Since 2013, Malamud has been in court, defending himself from many of these organizations, and he has emerged victorious - again. The DC District Court just ruled against the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), National Fire Protection Association Inc. (NFPA), and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and in Malamud's favor.

The court found that Malamud does not violate these organizations' copyright when he posts the law where others can see it - not paywalled, not regwalled, not DRMed.


This is the latest in a string of hard-fought legal victories that Malamud has secured with help froom EFF and its co-counsel at Wilson Sonsini. In 2020, after six years, the American Educational Research Association Inc, the American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education dropped their case against him. He also triumphed over an attempt by sheet metal and HVAC associations to copyright a federally mandated standard on air-duct leakage.

If you're interested in learning more about Malamud's philosophical and political work, I strongly recommend his 2020 documentary, Open Access Ninja (which is also a beer recipe, which is, naturally, free as in speech, if not as in beer):


And remember, Malamud's work isn't just about the law. His 2021 project to free a concordance to all scientific knowledge is, if anything, even more ambitious than his legal work:



5️⃣ Hey look at this

* Tracking Exposed (browser plugins that track and analyze algorithmic reccos at Pornhub, Youtube, Faceboom, Tiktok): https://tracking.exposed/

* Youchoose.ai (browser plugin that shows you reccos for *all* video services based on your Youtube views): https://youchoose.ai/


5️⃣ This day in history

#20yrsago Consensus at Lawyerpoint https://web.archive.org/web/20020414045537/https://bpdg.blogs.eff.org/

#15yrsago Orwell’s London neighborhood covered in spy-cameras https://web.archive.org/web/20070405190656/http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23391081-details/George+Orwell%2C+Big+Brother+is+watching+your+house/article.do

#15yrsago DVD jukeboxes are legal https://web.archive.org/web/20070611111113/http://www.twice.com/article/CA6429538.html

#15yrsago Entire EMI catalog is now DRM-free on iTunes https://web.archive.org/web/20070407084032/http://news.com.com/2100-1027_3-6172398.html

#10yrsago Sincerest Form of Parody: the lost ecosystem of MAD-inspired gross-out comics https://memex.craphound.com/2012/04/02/sincerest-form-of-parody-the-lost-ecosystem-of-mad-inspired-gross-out-comics/

#10yrsago Cliff theory of mobile business: why mobile phone companies go from top to bottom overnight  https://memex.craphound.com/2012/04/01/cliff-theory-of-mobile-business-why-mobile-phone-companies-go-from-top-to-bottom-overnight/ https://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/03/the-cliff-theory-of-handset-collapse-why-in-mobile-phones-do-companies-die-so-fast-siemens-motorola-.html

#10yrsago Army of volunteers politely call back anti-abortion harassers who place threatening calls https://jezebel.com/payback-is-a-bitch-for-abortion-clinic-protestors-than-5897699

#5yrsago The basic opsec failures that unmasked James Comey’s Twitter show how hard this stuff is https://gizmodo.com/this-is-almost-certainly-james-comey-s-twitter-account-1793843641

#1yrago AI has a GIGO problem https://pluralistic.net/2021/03/31/vaccine-for-the-global-south/#imagenot

#1yrago Sacklers to use Purdue bankruptcy to escape justice https://pluralistic.net/2021/03/31/vaccine-for-the-global-south/#claims-extinguished

#1yrago Cuba is a vaccine powerhouse https://pluralistic.net/2021/03/31/vaccine-for-the-global-south/#Soberana-Abdala

#1yrago AT&T will lay off thousands more https://pluralistic.net/2021/03/31/vaccine-for-the-global-south/#we-dont-have-to-care

#1yrago Ontario's drug-dealer premier is shockingly bad at distributing vaccines https://pluralistic.net/2021/04/01/incompetent-drug-dealer/#what-a-dope

#1yrago The zombie economy and digital arm-breakers https://pluralistic.net/2021/04/02/innovation-unlocks-markets/#digital-arm-breakers


5️⃣ Colophon

Today's top sources:

Currently writing:

* Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. Friday's progress: 523 words (79166 words total).

* A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING

* Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EXPERT REVIEW

* Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION

* Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FINAL DRAFT COMPLETE

* A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause."  FINISHED

* A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues."  FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: The Byzantine Premium

Upcoming appearances:

* Surveillance Capitalism, Borders, and the Police (Tech Workers Coalition San Diego), Apr 14

* Seize the Means of Computation, Emerging Technologies For the Enterprise, Apr 19-20

* UK Competition and Markets Authority Data Technology and Analytics conference, Jun 15-16

Recent appearances:

* @iDPI_umass Podcast

* The Bitcoin Podcast:

* Dangerous Visions: False Dawns and Wandergrounds - Dystopia, Then and Now

Latest book:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The *Washington Post* called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59 (print edition: https://bookshop.org/books/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/9781736205907) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html)

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1562/_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer.html.

Upcoming books:

* Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press, September 2022

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"*When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla*" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla

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