President Obama has repeatedly called for more transparency in government, and Web archivist Carl Malamud thinks he can help the president actually achieve that.
With the support of some prominent Internet activists, Malamud has launched a campaign at YesWeScan.org to convince the president to charge him with the task of running the Government Printing Office, the department responsible for providing public access to a variety of federal work products.
Malamud has plenty of experience facilitating public access to government documents, much to the chagrin of public officials. He has butted heads with government entities in his quest to get all levels of government to open their data banks to free, online public access. In the 1990s, he convinced the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Patent and Trademark Office to make their data available online, and he continues to post hard-to-access public documents on his Web site Public.resource.org.
Now, on "Yes We Scan," Malamud puts forth a seven-point plan to improve the GPO.
"Publication is a two-way street, and I hope this is the beginning of a long-term dialogue about the public domain and how the United States of America presents itself to the world," he says on the site.
Malamud's plan says the GPO should:
Lead the effort to make all primary legal materials produced by the U.S. readily available.
Work more closely with libraries and reform the Federal Depository Library Program to give them more support.
Establish a United States Publishing Academy to provide workforce development and vocational training for students on how to print and publish effectively.
Form a blue ribbon commission to reexamine the design of passports and other secure documents.
Create more materials for the public domain, both as fully produced books as well as freely available master files for others to use and remix.
Radically change how the government presents information on the Internet by means such as installing a cloud for .gov to use or upgrading the government's video capabilities.
Be fully transparent in its own financial affairs and a forceful and effective advocate for the public domain.
"Yes We Scan" displays Malamud's well known supporters, including law professor and intellectual property reform advocate Lawrence Lessig, Web 2.0 evangelist Tim O'Reilly, and Ellen Miller, the co-founder of the transparency nonprofit the Sunlight Foundation. The site also encourages visitors to endorse Malamud with comments sent to him via e-mail or Twitter.
"Access to information is a human right and the United States of America is the world's leading producer of information," Malamud says on the site. "As the publisher of the United States, GPO plays a vital role in promoting useful knowledge, promoting the progress of science and useful arts, and promoting and preserving the public domain."