As public domain information hero Carl Malamud is working on getting case law online and into the public domain (we have helped a bit :). Carl, donors, and the Public.Resource.org team have done a lot and… more to come…
But in addition to case law, Carl has also been working to get other public legal documents online and into the public domain. These documents include the legislative histories of the laws. So this was interesting… it looks like Thomson-West has signed an exclusive agreement with the GAO to have these legislative histories on WestLaw.
From Carl note (and originally posted on Boing Boing…
The law librarians at GAO have compiled complete federal legislative histories from 1915 on. These are the definitive dossiers that track a bill through the hearing process and into law. If you want to divine the intent of Congress, this is where you go.
Read this doc on Scribd: Contract Between Thomson West and GAO
Read this doc on Scribd: Thomson West Web Page
Thomson West claims they have exclusive access to these public documents and even go so far as to boast that you should purchase this exclusive “product” from West because the GAO law librarians (public employees!) have done all the work for you!
If you’re interesting in tracking this issue, I’ve created a Scribd group that has all the documents we’ve obtained so far. Next step: we asked for a copy of every document scanned under the FOIA laws!”
Well I am sure the US Government will give copies over to Carl to put up for free, and then back to the GAO itself to host and Brewster and the Internet Archive and Google and Cornell and the other law schools put online and into the public domain for free.