Monday, October 19, 2009

Law.Gov and Alternative Gov Docs?

Carl Malamud is posting at, what he calls "America's Operating System, Open Source." He hopes to garner support, both legislative and monetary, for authenticating and hosting a centralized registry and repository for all primary legal materials. He makes it clear that he is aiming for judicial, legislative and executive branch materials that constitute primary law. He is aiming for the federal level first, and to provide the "open source software building blocks that will allow states and municipalities to make their materials available as well." He specifically compares his vision to the new, federally produced,

providing bulk data and feeds to commercial, non-commercial, and governmental organizations wishing to build web sites, operate legal information services, or otherwise use the raw materials of our democracy.

Anybody who cares to submit concurring opinions, dissenting opinions, appendices, specifications, or others materials to this report will be invited to do so. It is understood that on a subject as complex as the functioning of our system of justice and our system of legal education there will be many views, and our hope in this process is to stimulate a robust discussion and dialogue on how to move our legal system forward.

Can an effort of workshops, a report, and briefings spur real change in Washington, D.C.? We won't know if we don't try.

This is an opportunity for citizens to help change the way we distribute America's Operating System.

Co-conveners will assist by hosting workshops, symposiums, and other activities during Q1/2010 that will be used as input to the report process. Confirmed co-conveners presently include:

* Professor Pamela Samuelson, Berkeley Law, University of California
* John Podesta, Center for American Progress
* Professor Tim Wu, Columbia Law School
* The Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School
* Professors James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins, Duke Law
* Professors Lawrence Lessig and Jonathan Zittrain, Harvard Law School
* Professor Jessica Litman, University of Michigan Law School
* The Oyez Project, Northwestern University
* Tim O'Reilly, O'Reilly Media
* Professor Edward W. Felten, Princeton University
* Robert Crown Law Library, Stanford Law School
* Professor Terry Martin, University of Texas Law School
* Professor Jack M. Balkin, Yale Law School
They specifically reference the AALL "ground-breaking report and AALL National Summit on Authentic Legal Information in the Digital Age...." on the need for authentication of legal information online. Malamud proposes using law students to systematically compare the online versions to print materials for authentication purposes, during the start-up phase. Apparently the students would be unpaid, since Malamud states that the students would gain "reputation points in the registry to demonstrate their public service" when they apply for clerkships or jobs. Malamud has a strict timetable and goals:
It is our goal to deliver, by mid-2010, a detailed report to policy makers in Washington, D.C., including at a minimum:

* Detailed technical specifications for markup, authentication, bulk access, and other aspects of a distributed registry.
* A bill of lading defining which materials should be made available on the system.
* A detailed business plan and budget for the organization in the government running the new system.
* Sample enabling legislation.
* An economic impact statement detailing the effect on federal spending and economic activity.
* Procedures for auditing materials on the system to ensure authenticity.
The original site has links to interesting documents and materials dating from September. More recently, our colleague, Rich Leiter, has taken up the cause in a post at his blog, Life of Books, and Malamud's post at the blog O'Reilly Radar.

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