Politics 80X: Politics of the Internet

GOVERNMENT DATA

How can Citizens Obtain Government Data?

The Internet Multicasting Service, whose president is Carl Malamud, is a non-profit organization which carries on Internet publishing. According to The New York Times [4 May 1998], "In January 1994, Mr. Malamud posted on the Intenet the full text of SEC documents and several years of the patent data base over the objections of the SEC and the Patent Office. His organization later added data bases from the General Services Administration, the Federal Election Commission, the Federal Reserve Board and the Government Printing Office as well as provided audio feeds form the floor of the House adnd Senate."

The SEC agreed to take over and provide the corporate data. Malamud said that the outcome with the Patent Office was less satisfactory. The Times: "Officials at the Patent and Trandemark Office rsponded that the agency was in a difficult position because it is self-financed and that making raw patent data avilable for wholesale public downloading would jeopardize the agency's existence." The Commissioner of the Patent and Trademark Office, Bruce Lehman, replied that

We'd do this tomorrow if we had the funding. What Mr. Malamud wants us to do is permit people to download the entire data base.

If he can do that we'd be out all $20 million we now receive in fees. Why would anyone want paper?

Why, indeed?