Michael Hart, Father of Project Gutenberg

Today’s New York Times includes the lengthy obituary: “Michael Hart, a Pioneer of E-Books, Dies at 64.”

The obit tells the story of the fascinating history of Project Gutenberg, which was born when Mr. Hart typed out the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1971 and made it freely downloadable from Arpanet.   From that beginning, the project has grown to include over 30,000 books.

The obituary also discusses various copyright issues and Mr. Hart’s connection with then Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig when Prof. Lessig met for lunch with Mr. Hart to see if he might serve as lead plaintiff in a constitutional challenge to the Copyright Term Extension Act.  Mr. Hart, after pouring sugar on his pizza, told Prof. Lessig that he saw the ligitation as a chance to “challenge the entire social and economic system of the United States.”    According to the obit. Prof. Lessig was looking for someone a little “less visionary” and enlisted Eric Eldred for the cause, which resulted in the 2003 Supreme Court decision Eldred v. Ashcroft.

Codifying Commonsense – the Law.gov Principles

I am very pleased and proud to add my signature to the LAW.GOV PRINCIPLES AND DECLARATION just posted at public.resource.org.  These principles coalesced during the fifteen Law.gov workshops and have received the unanimous consent of the co-covenors of these Law.gov workshops.  The principles include items that we librarians have discussed for years, even decades, like vendor-neutral citation.  And these principles are consistent with the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform States Laws (NCCUSL) draft of a new “Authentication and Preservation of State Electronic Legal Materials Act.”

Here are the principles:

The primary legal materials of the United States are the raw materials of our democracy. They should be made more broadly available to enable an informed citizenry.

Primary legal materials include documents of primary authority issued by governmental bodies, such as court opinions, statutes, and regulations. They also include the supporting documents and other media issued and maintained by those bodies, such as dockets, hearings, forms, oral arguments, and legislative histories. These materials can be found in every branch, at every level, national, tribal, state and local, and should be available to anyone with the will and the heart to obtain them.

The following principles should govern the dissemination of primary legal materials in the United States:

1. Direct fees for dissemination of primary legal materials should be avoided.

2. Limitations on access through terms of use or the assertion of copyright on primary legal materials is contrary to long-standing public policy and core democratic principles and is misleading to citizens.

3. Primary legal materials should be made available using bulk access mechanisms so they may be downloaded by anyone.

4. The primary legal materials, and the methods used to access them, should be authenticated so people can trust in the integrity of these materials.

5. Historical archives should be made available online and in a static location to the extent possible.

6. Vendor- and media-neutral citation mechanisms should be employed.

7. Technical standards for document structure, identifiers, and metadata should be developed and applied as extensively as possible.

8. Data should be distributed in a computer-processable, non-proprietary form in a manner that meets best current practices for the distribution of open government data. That data should represent the definitive documents, not just aggregate, preliminary, or modified forms.

9. An active program of research and development should be sponsored by governmental bodies that issue primary legal materials to develop new standards and solutions to challenges presented by the electronic distribution of definitive primary legal materials. Examples include the automated detection and redaction of private personal information in documents.

10. An active program of education, training, and documentation should be undertaken to help governmental bodies that issue primary legal materials learn and use best current practices.

Adherence to these principles by governmental bodies is not just good for democracy and justice, it will spur innovation and will encourage:

1. Broader use of legal materials in all parts of our education system, including our law schools.

2. Researchers in law schools, universities, and other research institutions to have broader access to bulk data, spurring important research on the functioning of our government.

3. Innovation in the legal information market by reducing barriers to entry.

4. Savings in the government’s own cost of providing these materials through adherence to best current practices.

5. Small businesses to understand rules and regulations they must deal with, reducing their costs and increasing their effectiveness.

6. Increased foreign trade by making it easier for our foreign partners to understand our laws.

7. Better access to justice by making legal information more broadly available to citizens.

How we distribute the raw materials of our democracy is a foundational issue in our system of government. Access to the raw materials of our democracy is a prerequisite for the rule of law and access to justice and makes real the principles of equal protection and due process.

and here are the signatories:

Jack M. Balkin
Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment
 Yale Law School 

Robert C. Berring, Jr.
Walter Perry Johnson Professor of Law
Berkeley Law, University of California 

James Boyle
William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law
 Duke Law School 

Nicholas Bramble
Postdoctoral Associate in Law
 Yale Law School 

Tom R. Bruce
Director, Legal Information Institute
 Cornell Law School 

Richard A. Danner
Archibald C. & Frances Fulk Rufty Research Professor of Law
 Duke Law School 

Laura E. DeNardis
Executive Director, Information Society Project
 Yale Law School 

Edward W. Felten
Professor of Computer Science & Public Affairs
 Princeton University 

Jerry Goldman
Professor & Director, Oyez Project
 Northwestern University 

Joseph Lorenzo Hall
Visiting Postdoctoral Research Associate
UC Berkeley and Princeton University

  Jennifer Jenkins
Director, Center for the Study of the Public Domain
 Duke Law School 

Mitchell Kapor
Trustee
 Mitchell Kapor Foundation 

S. Blair Kauffman
Law Librarian and Professor of Law
 Yale Law School 

Mark A. Lemley
William H. Neukom Professor of Law
 Stanford Law School 

Lawrence Lessig
Professor of Law
 Harvard Law School 

Paul Lomio
Director, Robert Crown Law Library
 Stanford Law School 

Carl Malamud
President
 Public.Resource.Org 

Harry S. Martin III
Librarian & Professor of Law Emeritus
 Harvard Law School 

Peter W. Martin
Jane M.G. Foster Professor of Law
 Cornell Law School 

John Mayer
Executive Director
Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction

  Judy Meadows
State Law Librarian
 State Law Library of Montana 

Paul Ohm
Associate Professor of Law and Telecommunications
University of Colorado Law School

  Tim O’Reilly
Chief Executive Officer
 O’Reilly Media 

John G. Palfrey
Henry N. Ess III Librarian & Professor of Law
 Harvard Law School 

Pamela Samuelson
Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law
Berkeley Law, University of California

  Stuart Sierra
Assistant Director, Program on Law and Technology
 Columbia Law School 

Stephen Schultze
Associate Director, Center for Information Technology Policy
 Princeton University 

Tim Stanley
Chief Executive Officer
 Justia 

Erika V. Wayne
Deputy Director, Robert Crown Law Library
 Stanford Law School 

Christopher Wong
Postgraduate Fellow
 New York Law School 

Tim Wu
Professor of Law
 Columbia Law School 

Harlan Yu
Doctoral Student in Computer Science
 Princeton University 

Jonathan Zittrain
Professor of Law & Computer Science
 Harvard Law School

Carl Malamud’s campaign and his many Stanford Law School friends

From Washington Internet Daily, “Agencies,” March 02, 2009 Monday, Vol. 10 No. 39:

. . . Carl Malamud, pushing state legislatures to renounce any claimed copyright interests in legal codes and make them freely available as searchable databases (WID June 20 p7), has support from big names in free-culture and open-government circles. They include [SLS professor] Larry Lessig, founder of Creative Commons, tech publisher Tim O’Reilly, Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer [SLS alumnus and lecturer] Fred von Lohmann, Columbia University law professor Tim Wu and University of California at Berkeley law professor Pamela Samuelson. Malamud’s model, described on his campaign site at YesWeScan.org, is Augustus Giegengack. The printer campaigned his way to becoming U.S. Public Printer by getting endorsement letters from Rotary Clubs and hand-delivering them to the Franklin Roosevelt White House. Malamud said the GPO should lead the effort to make all U.S. primary legal materials available online, create more materials for the public domain that can be re- mixed by users, “reboot” the .gov domain by “installing a cloud” and upgrading its video
capabilities, and work more closely with libraries.

Carl is our hero.  And we (as in librarians) are his.  Carl has been a guest speaker at our Advanced Legal Research class and has made many comments about the role of law librarians in liberating legal information, and he spoke at last summer’s AALL meeting in Portland too.

Internet Independence

Today’s San Jose Mercury News has a “Silicon Valley Dispatch” about our professor Larry Lessig’s month in Madagascar when he was completely off-line to “assert his independence from the digital grid — no blogging, limited e-mail, few phone calls — for a month.”  The story, “Let’s take a holiday from Net – Stanford Prof Services as Example,” by Mike Cassidy, suggests that we should all pull the plug on occasion:

A month might be a stretch for most of us.  But how about a week or two?  And what better time than Independence Day to consider pulling the plug on the digital world?

 

And Larry Lessig on the Declaration of Independence is noted here.

OpenAustralia.org goes live

Our alumnus Matt Asay’s blog The Open Road is a blog that matters to us and yesterday he added an item of special interest:  Open Sourcing Australia:  OpenAustralia.org goes live.

It seems reasonable to suggest that no nation should cede its sovereignty to any private, commercial interest. . . .

. . .

Larry Lessig argues that “code is law,” meaning that the very software we use to construct the Internet, intranets, etc. has a powerful effect on what is actually possible through these communication media.. . .

It is therefore important that Australia opted for open-source software in capturing the mind and history of its parliament. This is what sovereign nations do. Or, at least, it’s what they should do.

 

I just took a look at the Australian site.  It is a model.  I was impressed by everything and thought that this current awareness service was especially impressive:

Sign up to be emailed when something relevant to you happens in Parliament

Internet for Everyone

Two of our law professors, Barbara van Schewick and Larry Lessig, among others, are driving a new campaign to ensure universal high-speed Internet service.  Today’s San Jose Mercury News has a story by Frank Davies about the Internetforeveryone.org campaign, “Broad coalition backs universal broadband.” From the story:

Better broadband access and quality can be a boring and technical issue, fraught with bureaucratic complications, admitted the organizers for InternetforEveryone.org. But they also see it as crucial to the future of the U.S. economy, education and even the health of democracy.

At a news conference in New York, the group warned that the United States is falling behind European and Asian nations with Internet access that is more limited, more expensive and slower. . . .

 

Zipcar founder Robin Chase, also a member of the coalition, is quoted as comparing high-speed to a utility:  “Maybe it’s not as basic as water, but it’s as basic as hot water.”

The campaign is also the subject of an item in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s The Wired Campus today, “Higher Education Groups Become Part of Broad Internet Coalition.”

Harvard Law Library Director in the News

John Palfrey, Executive Director of the Harvard Law School Berkman Center for Internet & Society and new library director at HLS, was featured in a terrific story in USA Today on Wednesday, “Pioneers steer the course of cyberspace.”  The article references John’s forthcoming book, Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives

The digital generation gap

Berkman Executive Director John Palfrey posits the digital revolution’s most enduring change is neither the new business models nor Google’s search algorithms: It’s the massive generation gap between those who were “born digital” and those who were not.

Palfrey’s forthcoming book, Born Digital, is an offspring of the center’s extensive work on “digital natives,” children who were born into and raised in the digital world.

“We’re talking about the future behavior of human beings on the Internet,” says Palfrey, who is head of the Harvard Law School Library. “Digital natives use technology to either be more productive or distracted. The challenge is making the most of (their skills).”

How Congress could make copyright law even worse

Be sure to read Larry Lessig’s op-ed in today’s New York Times, “Little Orphan Artworks.”  Larry’s piece is also the subject of an item on the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, “Lessig on the Proposed Orphaned Works Act: ‘Unfair and Unwise’.”

For us librarians:

    ” . . . The uncertain standard of the bill doesn’t offer any efficient opportunity for libraries or archives to make older works available, because the cost of a ‘diligent effott’ is not going to be cheap. The only beneficiaries would be a new class of ‘digilgent effort’ searchers who would be a strain on library budgets.”