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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Improve PACER – Sign the Petition


We crafted a very short petition directed at the Administrative Office of the US Courts to improve PACER.

The petition is online here: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/improve-PACER.

It reads:

We ask the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to improve PACER by enhancing the authenticity, usability and availability of the system.

We the undersigned, urge the Administrative Office of the US Courts (AO) to make the following changes to the PACER system:

For verification and reliability, the AO should digitally sign every document put into PACER using readily available technology.

PACER needs to be much more readily accessible if it is to be usable for research, education, and the practice of law. Improved accessibility includes both lowering the costs for using PACER and enhancing the web interfaces.

Depository libraries should also have free access to PACER.

Please sign the petition, comment on the ideas and share the petition with your friends and colleagues!

I encourage you to sign the petition. And if you have any questions about it, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thank you,

Erika Wayne

e-mail: evwayne AT stanford DOT edu

Getting Documents from NARA about NARA – UPDATE

[Cross posted on LegalResearchPlus]

About one month ago, I posted an item about the difficulty of getting documents about NARA from NARA — the entry was based on an article written by Anthony Clark (Why Is It So Hard to Get Documents from the National Archives About the National Archives?, History News Network, July 21, 2008).

Here is an update to this very interesting story. On the Archivists’ Forum, there is a recent entry from Anthony Clark detailing the latest ups and (mostly) downs of this saga.

Clark writes:

“Some readers may know that I have had great difficulty accessing NARA’s own records for my research into presidential libraries and NL, or NARA’s Office of Presidential Libraries (see http://hnn.us/articles/52350.html) for more information). What you might not know is that in July NARA offered me a deal” – if I dropped all of my pending FOIA requests for NL’s records, they would commit to systematically process all of NL’s records – some 230 boxes – at a rate of nine boxes per month, until all boxes have been processed and made available. Just a few weeks later, not only did NARA “take back” part of that offer (while claiming it was never made), they have now reneged on it completely. I was so shocked by what NARA did today that I felt I had to make the list aware of what they had done. [Full details available on the Forum page.]”

As I hear more about this NARA-tive, I’ll be sure to pass it along.

Access to EU Documents – Some Good News….

[cross posted on LegalResearchPlus]

On July 1st, the Court of Justice for the European Communities issued a judgement on access to legal opinions and it offers good news. (Judgment of the Court of Justice in two joined cases C-39/05 P & C-52/05 P, Sweden and Turco v Council and Others, July 1, 2008):

The headline on the court’s press release reads: THE COURT AUTHORISES, IN PRINCIPLE, ACCESS TO LEGAL ADVICE GIVEN TO THE COUNCIL ON LEGISLATIVE QUESTIONS [bold text appeared in release]. The press release of the Court also states:

The Court takes the view that disclosure of documents containing the advice of an institution’s legal service on legal questions arising when legislative initiatives are being debated increases transparency and strengthens the democratic right of European citizens to scrutinize the information which has formed the basis of a legislative act.

The Court concludes that Regulation No 1049/2001 imposes, in principle, an obligation to disclose the opinions of the Council’s legal service relating to a legislative process. There are, however, exceptions to that principle as regards opinions given in the context of a legislative process, but being of a particularly sensitive nature or having a wide scope that goes beyond the context of the legislative process. In such a case, it is incumbent on the institution concerned to give a detailed statement of reasons for such a refusal.

For excellent analysis and updates on this topic, check out the Statewatch Observatory on Access to EU Documents.

Copyright Renewal Records

[cross posted on LegalResearchPlus]

From Inside Google Book Search

“How do you find out whether a book was renewed? You have to check the U.S. Copyright Office records. Records from 1978 onward are online (see http://www.copyright.gov/records) but not downloadable in bulk. The Copyright Office hasn’t digitized their earlier records, but Carnegie Mellon scanned them as part of their Universal Library Project, and the tireless folks at Project Gutenberg and the Distributed Proofreaders painstakingly corrected the OCR.”

“Thanks to the efforts of Google software engineer Jarkko Hietaniemi, we’ve gathered the records from both sources, massaged them a bit for easier parsing, and combined them into a single XML file available for download here.”

[Hat tip to BoingBoing for this news!]

Free Stuff – PolicyArchive.org

[Cross posted on LegalResearchPlus]

We love free stuff!

And, thanks to the Center for Governmental Studies, an interesting free resource is now available. The folks at CGS have just created the PolicyArchive.

According to the PolicyArchive website:

“PolicyArchive is an innovative, new digital archive of global, non-partisan public policy research. It makes use of the power, efficiency, and economy of modern Internet technology to collect and disseminate summaries and full texts, videos, reports, briefs, and multimedia material of think tank, university, government, and foundation-funded policy research. It offers a subject index, an internal search engine, useful abstracts, email notifications of newly added research, and will soon expand to offer information on researchers and funders, and even user-generated publication reviews. Over time, it will grow to include policy content from international and corporate organizations.”

They ask that you register on the front page. But take a look at the site. You can view 12,000 plus documents, including some CRS reports. There are also handy indexes, too. Take a look and if you have research to contribute to the site, they have a link for adding content. I also signed up for the free newsletter for the latest policy additions to the collection.

Hat tip to the terrific Sunlight Foundation blog for spotting this new resource.