Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, June 28, 2008

On OA to U.S. legislative histories

Robb Farmer, Open Access to Compiled Federal Legislative Histories: Coming Soon?, Legal Sources Subject to Open, June 27, 2008.

... The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) produces compiled legislative histories for laws passed by Congress. The GAO has a current contract with Thomson West, whereby the publisher scans the thousands of pages produced and sells access to the information afterwards with the goal of turning a profit. The GAO can access the documents for internal use only, but that free access does not appear to extend to Congress or other governing bodies.

Not long ago, the GAO provided [Carl] Malamud digitized copies of a number of histories from the 67th & 68th Congress, as well as from a representative sample of histories from well-known legislation passed since then. These useful and interesting documents have been uploaded to for public viewing. In an another forward thinking move, Malamud proposed that, after the materials had been given to Thomson West to produce their commercial project, the same documents be used to develop an open access version at no cost to the GAO, other than the original person-hours required to produce the documents. The proposal included a similar arrangement where an outside entity, in this case the highly respected Internet Archive, scan the documents and that the GAO would be provided a digital copy of the scanned material that would be accessible to students, legal professions, and the public at large. ...