Carl Malamud, the indefatigable advocate of access to government information, has launched a campaign to become the Public Printer, aka, the head of the Government Printing Office. It’s a campaign that ought to excite any citizen who cares about the rich possibilities of using government to invigorate democracy and culture. If President Obama is serious about making government more transparent and accountable, he could not choose a better candidate than Malamud.
Carl also stands for getting good value for taxpayer dollars and for cutting through the bureaucratic games. He brings a puckish sense of humor to the enterprise of making government information and documents more available. “Yes We Scan,” is his campaign slogan, punctuated by a Shepard Fairey-like poster of himself with the word “Data” underneath it.
As an activist skilled in prying loose government information for more than 20 years, Malamud knows how the system works. You can read about his record in my profile of him last year, his WIkipedia entry, or James Love’s recent blog post about him. Malamud is not careerist looking for a plum job. He’s a man with a vision and a change-agent with imagination. He spells out his vision in a number of detailed position papers for changing government policies for information. Here are five of his ideas:
1. Rebooting.Gov. How the Government Printing Office can spearhead a revolution in governmental affairs.
2. FedFlix. Government videos are an essential national resource for vocational and safety training and can also help form a public domain stock footage library, a common resource for the YouTube and remix era.
3. The Library of the U.S.A. A book series and public works job program to create an archival series of curated documents drawn from our cultural institutions, with full-quality masters of the books and research materials made available for other publishers to draw on. The program would employ the GPO master printers and would recruit writers, archivists, artists, and other creative workers through a national call for participation.
4. The United States Publishing Academy. GPO should expand current training programs such as the Institute for Federal Printing and combine them with current workforce development efforts to create a national academy similar to the National Mine Academy and the National Fire Academy, training its own workforce, the government, and the local schools in the art, craft, and science of publishing.
5. The Rural Internetification Administration. Repurposing the Amateur Radio League, modifying spectrum policy, and injecting capital into rural coops can bring high-speed broadband to 98% of rural Americans just as the Rural Electrification Administration did for electricity in the last century.
In support of his candidacy, Malamud made this statement:
For over 20 years, I have been publishing government information on the Internet. In 2008, Public.Resource.Org published over 32.4 million pages of primary legal materials, as well as thousands of hours of video and thousands of photographs. In the 1990s, I fought to place the databases of the United States on the Internet. In the 1980s, I fought to make the standards that govern our global Internet open standards available to all. Should I be honored to be nominated and confirmed, I would continue to work to preserve and extend our public domain, and would place special attention to our relationship with our customers, especially the United States Congress.
Access to information is a human right and the United States of America is the world’s leading producer of information. 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….
Malamud says his campaign takes inspiration from Augustus E. Giegengack, a working printer for the military newspaper Stars and Stripes. Giegengack had a vision for the GPO, which he shared by speaking at Rotary Clubs in upstate New York. He asked his audiences to send him letters of endorsement for his candidacy, and then Giegengack sent a packet of 200 endorsements to FDR, who appointed him as head of GPO. In Malamud’s works, Giegengack became “the greatest public printer since Ben Franklin, printer to the pre-united states.”
Malamud’s candidacy is supported by the Committee to Re-boot Government, which includes Honorary Co-Chairs Lawrence Lessig, David Halperin and Paul Vixie. The Committee also includes open-source champion Tim O’Reilly, Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow, Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, Gary Bass of OMB Watch, Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation, and other advocates of open government.
Want to join the campaign? Visit Malamud’s website, Yes We Scan, and while you’re at it, visit his nonprofit project, PublicResource.org. In light of President Obama’s many appointments of intellectual property hard-liners to key positions in the federal government, it’s time for Obama to appoint someone with a true “free culture” perspective on information and government. That’s Carl Malamud.