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Statement on Internet Archive Offer to Deliver Free and Perpetual Public Access to PACER

STATEMENT FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

February 14, 2017

CONTACT: Mary Kate Mezzetti, marykate@opengovfoundation.org | +1-508-776-2789

WASHINGTON, DC (February 14, 2017) — The OpenGov Foundation today released the following statement from Executive Director Seamus Kraft on the Internet Archive’s offer to “archive and host— for free, forever and without restriction on access to the public— all records contained in [the Public Access to Court Electronic Records platform],” commonly known as PACER.  Right now, PACER charges the public per-page fees to access online these critical public judicial records, which undercuts PACER’s stated mission to deliver the best possible public access.  Public information freedom-fighter Aaron Swartz fought to liberate public court records from behind the problematic PACER paywall before his tragic passing:

“The vital public information in PACER is the property of the American people.  Public information, from laws to court records, should never be locked away behind paywalls, never be stashed behind arbitrary barriers and never be covered in artificial restrictions.  Forcing Americans to pay hard-earned money to access public court records is no better than forcing them to pay a poll tax.

“The Internet Archive’s offer to archive and deliver unrestricted public access to PACER for free and forever is the best possible Valentine’s Day gift to the American people.  The Internet Archive is proposing a cost-effective and innovative public-private partnership that will finally fix a clear injustice.  There is no reason to do anything but accept this offer in a heartbeat.”

PACER is hosted and maintained by the Administrative office of the U.S. Courts and is the main public access program for all federal appellate, district and bankruptcy court case and docket information.  The offer to host PACER at no cost to American taxpayers was made by Internet Archive Founder Brewster Kahle in a February 10, 2017 letter to the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, which is today hosting a hearing on the issue.

 

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Statement on U.S. District Court Decision Allowing Private Copyright Holders to Continue Restricting Public Access to the Public Law

STATEMENT FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

February 9th, 2017

CONTACT

Mary Kate Mezzetti

marykate@opengovfoundation.org | +1 (508) 776-2789

WASHINGTON, DC (February 9th, 2017The OpenGov Foundation today released the following statement from Executive Director Seamus Kraft on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruling that allows private standards organizations to continue restricting public access to critical elements of the public law.  The federal court decision against Public.Resource.Org, long-time advocates for the public’s right to know the laws under which they must live, upheld a copyright claim by private parties over the critical components of the public safety laws of the United States— public safety laws such as building codes, fire codes and electrical codes:

“Everyone should agree that the code of law is the bedrock of American society. Our country is governed by laws, not men-and certainly not private companies. In fact, our country was founded on the principle that everyone has a right to know the law, to access it freely, debate it and engage with it where they want and how they want.  Any artificial barriers or restrictions or paywalls erected between citizens and their own laws erode our most basic civil rights, undercut our democracy and must be removed by any means necessary.

“The U.S. District Court could have decided to strengthen public access to the law.  It could have removed a patently artificial barrier standing between citizens and their right to know the law.  It could have secured a basic civil right for all Americans.  It did not.

“Make no mistake: this copyright catastrophe will end soon enough, whether through the courts or Congressional action. Smart leaders of private standards bodies should recognize that reality and acknowledge that public safety is everybody’s business, that public safety codes created by thousands of dedicated volunteers are meant to be the law, and that rationing access to the law is not only anti-democratic, but harms public safety.”

 

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Statement on Appointment of Matt Cutts as Acting Administrator of the U.S. Digital Service

CONTACT: Mary Kate Mezzetti, marykate@opengovfoundation.org | +1-508-776-2789

WASHINGTON, DC (January 23, 2017) — The OpenGov Foundation today released the following statement from Executive Director Seamus Kraft on the news that Matt Cutts has been appointed to serve as Acting Administrator of the U.S. Digital Service (USDS) in the Trump Administration.  Cutts had been serving as director of engineering for the USDS under President Barack Obama while on temporary leave from a senior position at Google:

“Matt Cutts is one of the best and the brightest engineers to ever serve in the United States Government.  As Washington transitions to a new Administration, Matt’s promotion to Acting Administrator of the USDS is a tremendously positive signal to all those building a better federal government with better technology, data and design: now more than ever, your country needs your talents, creativity and passion for creating modern government that works better for all Americans.

“Cutts’ appointment underscores that the transformational efforts begun under President Obama are working and must continue.  Out-dated and paper-based systems, poor public access and service, inefficient bureaucracy, rampant beltway banditry, billions of taxpayer dollars wasted on bad tech every year— these are endemic government problems that know no party affiliation.  They must be confronted head-on by the best talent our country has to offer, inside and outside government.  Half-hearted half-measures that speak to only half our country won’t cut it, and will only further today’s broken status quo.”

In a blog post announcing the promotion, Cutts linked to a December 2016 USDS report to Congress on what the service has accomplished since forming in August 2014.  He also posted the following recruitment video aimed at inspiring other technologists to step away from profit-driven private-sector work for a period of public service.

USDS-Recruitment-Video-Screen-Shot

Watch: “You’ll Never Be the Same Again”

Kraft continued:

“With Matt Cutts at the helm of USDS, with Gerrit Lansing assuming a top tech role in the White House, and with leaders like Robin Carnahan and Dave Zvenyach and more continuing in senior roles at the General Services Administration and across the federal government, we already have some of the best our nation has to offer signed up and serving.  Yet a vast amount of work remains, with success demanding an equally significant investment from those of us on the outside.  Private-sector tech companies, non-profit tech teams like ours, funders, academic institutions all must step up to support those doing the incredibly difficult work on the inside.  

“Now is the worst possible time to walk away from the civic arena.  Right now, quitting or hand-wringing— whether as a funder or investor or software developer— means giving up and giving in.  That will never happen here at The OpenGov Foundation.  And if folks like Matt, Robin, Gerrit and Dave remain committed to building 21st Century governments that work, I am confident that those on the outside with the talents, the time and the funding America needs will continue to step up at this critical time in our nation’s history.”

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HAPPENING THIS WEEK: Open Government Partnership (OGP) Annual Summit Hosted in Paris, France

 

Executive Director Seamus Kraft & Head of Product Aaron Ogle to Participate in Panel Discussion, Collaboration on Madison

PARIS, FRANCE (December 8th, 2016)– Commencing on December 7th, Open Government leaders from 70 countries will gather in Paris, France to demonstrate and discuss their experiences over the past year as part of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Initiative. The Partnership was founded in 2011 as part of a United Nations initiative to promote transparency and strengthen technology in order to advance governments internationally. The eight founding governments have grown to 70 in 2016.

Executive Director Seamus Kraft will participate in two discussions during the Summit, the first titled: “Liberty, Equality, Data: How to Build Participatory Communities that Deliver.” WSJ Social Media Editor Natalie Andrews will moderate the panel set to discuss barriers to open government participation, and steps to create and maintain productive partnerships and communities. The second discussion, “Remix to Reform,” will be lead by Stephen Larrick of the Sunlight Foundation and will highlight several open resources, including The OpenGov Foundation’s America Decoded/State Decoded project.

Head of Product Aaron Ogle will participate in the OGP Toolbox Hackathon during the Summit to discuss how to improve The OpenGov Foundation’s Madison Project. Ogle has a few specific goals in mind to discuss with other developers to explore releasing a version for the French Administration.

If you’re an early riser watch Executive Director Kraft on Friday, December 9th from 4:45 AM EST-6:05 AM EST and 8:00 AM EST-9:20 AM EST and explore other discussions taking place (all will be available by live stream).

WHAT: Open Government Partnership 2016 Summit

WHO: Executive Director Seamus Kraft, Head of Product Aaron Ogle & International Open Government Leaders

WHEN: December 7th-9th, 2016

WHERE: Paris, France

WEBCAST: Click here to watch the live stream online.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Send your questions, issues to bring up, anything you would like discussed to us on Twitter (@FoundOpenGov, @SeamusKraft or @ATOgle), via email (SayHello@opengovfoundation.org) or join the Twitter conversation directly using the hashtag #OGP16Summit

 

CONTACT

Mary Kate Mezzetti

marykate@opengovfoundation.org | +1-508-776-2789

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TODAY: Curing the Civic Cancer of Copyright of Public Laws and Legal Codes

The OpenGov Foundation’s Executive Director to Address American Association of Law Library’s National Conference on Copyright of State Legal Materials at Boston University Law School

BOSTON, MA (December 2, 2016) — As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer writes, “If a law isn’t public, it isn’t a law.”  Yet across America, the vast majority of state, county and local public laws and legal codes are not close to publicly accessible, locked away from the public under copyright restrictions and poll-tax-style paywalls. This is a serious, growing problem for free, functional government and violates the fundamental right of all Americans to know the laws under which they live.  

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Today, at 3:30 PM time as part of National Conference on Copyright of State and Legal Materials, The OpenGov Foundation’s (OGF) Executive Director Seamus Kraft will share how we are curing the copyright cancer: with a unique combination of cutting-edge data science, policy development and collaborative efforts with the U.S. Congress and Free Law Founders coalition of state, local and county governments.  The OGF’s work— from modernizing local laws and legal codes to developing model copyright of law reform legislation— to build a world where the public has the best possible access to every single law, legal code, rule and regulation was recognized by the American Library Association with the 2016 James Madison Award for  championing, protecting and promoting public access to government information and the public’s right to know at the national level.

What: The National Conference on Copyright and State Legal Materials

Who: Executive Director Seamus Kraft, Emily Frentren, Director of Government Relations, American Association of Law Libraries, Kris Kasianovitz, Government Information Librarian, State, Local and International Documents, Stanford University Libraries

Where: Boston University Law School, Boston, MA

When: Friday December 2nd, 3:30 PM

How to Watch: The discussion will be recorded and posted after the fact. Follow @FoundOpenGov on Twitter to get the video, or contact The OGF directly.

Contact: Mary Kate Mezzetti | marykate@opengovfoundation.org | +1-508-776-2789

Emily Feltren | feltren@aall.org | +1-312-205-8010

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