I am sitting in the Berkman Center's conference room listening to Stephen Schultze give an impassioned appeal to increase public access to government information, especially federal court records. You can listen to his talk through a live webcast feed. Here is a summary of Steve's presentation:
In the past twenty years, a remarkable number of government documents have been put online. In some cases, these documents are made easily and freely accessible. In others, technology has failed to overcome barriers or even created new barriers to access. One particular subset of documents -- opinions, dockets, and the full public record in federal court cases -- remain behind a pay wall. Although the U.S. Government cannot hold copyright in documents it creates, it has for a long time long charged for the cost of creating and maintaining these documents. While the courts understandably seek to pay for the services they provide, this talk will argue that there is an alternative path in which the public benefits far outweigh the costs.
Today's talk is a part of the Berkman Center's celebration of the first Open Access Day, which was created to help the public learn and understand more about the opportunities for wider access and use of information. Open Access Day was inspired by the National Day of Action on February 15th, 2007, led by Students for FreeCulture with support from the Alliance for Taxpayer Access. This year, the same partners have joined forces with the Public Library of Science, the open-access scientific and medical online publisher.
In conjunction with Open Access Day, the Berkman Center and Open Access Day organizers have a wide range of activities planned. You can learn more here.
(Note: Stephen Schultz and I are both fellows at the Berkman Center.)