Carl Malamud's Public.Resource.Org Joins Effort To Make Pay-Walled Indian Standards Freely Available

from the operating-system-of-society dept

Techdirt has been covering for some time Carl Malamud‘s project to open source the “operating system of society” by placing digital versions of US laws, codes and regulations on the site Public Resource. But of course, the logic of allowing the public to be able to read all the laws and regulations that govern them applies outside the US just as much. And so it’s perhaps no surprise that Malamud has joined with other campaigners (including Vint Cerf) in petitioning the Indian government to allow that country’s standards to be made freely available to the public in the same way. Here’s a summary of the move:

Public.Resource.Org, a non-profit that works on spreading knowledge on the Internet for the benefit of the general public, along with a few other concerned folks have petitioned the [Indian] Government to make the currently pay-walled “Indian Standards” available and accessible to the general public for free. As the petition points out, since these Standards govern the safety and reliability of several thousands of day to day products & processes, there are several unnecessary negative cascading effects that the current financial barrier to accessing them creates. As these Standards also serve as edicts of the Government, the petition submits that as is the case with legislation, the general public also has a right to be able to view these Standards. Aside from this, giving the general public access to these Standards would also be in line with the work of the Government’s work on maintaining and improving these Standards. It is hoped that the Ministry revisits its Copyright policy which currently disallows the free promulgation of these Standards.

That comes from Swaraj Paul Barooah, on the excellent Spicy IP site. He’s also one of the petitioners, and the rest of his post is an interesting discussion of the reasons why public standards should be freely available. It also explains why the petition has become necessary:

In June, 2013, Carl Malamud, on behalf of Public.Resource.Org procured a complete set of Indian Standards from BIS [the Bureau of Indian Standards] and not only made them available online for public non-commercial use, but also took great pains to retype and process many of the standards to make them more useful to people — including redrawing 202 diagrams in in SVG vector format to allow for them to be resized and cut and pasted into documents by users, retyping and reformatting the entire National Building Code of India (as well as over 700 other Standards) into valid XHTML code so that it works in modern browsers and mobile platforms etc.

However, when he applied for a renewal in 2014, he received a reply stating that his efforts were against the copyright policy of BIS and was requested to remove all documents relating to the standards from his website, failing which legal action would be taken against him for violation of their copyright.

That, of course, is a story with which Malamud is all-too familiar. Luckily, that means he has plenty of experience in overcoming whatever objections the authorities have to allowing the public to read key documents without having to pay for them. Let’s hope he and his fellow petitioners are successful — not just for India’s sake, but also as an example for many more countries around the world to follow.

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Comments on “Carl Malamud's Public.Resource.Org Joins Effort To Make Pay-Walled Indian Standards Freely Available”

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John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“If you are talking about standards that must be followed by law or any Government mandate makes no sense”

Not only is it nonsensical, but it’s straight-up wrong. If a standard must be met by law, then that effectively makes the standard itself law. If something is a law, then it should be readily available at no cost to the people who are being required to comply with it.

Anything else is immoral and should be illegal.

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