Resolution Introduced To Make Public Domain Congressional Research Finally Accessible To The Public

from the that-would-be-good dept

For years, we've been noting the absurdity of how Congress keeps the output of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) totally secret. As you hopefully know, works produced by the federal government are mostly not subject to copyright, and are in the public domain. Of course, just because something is in the public domain doesn't mean anyone has a requirement to make it available -- and Congress has long used that loophole to keep CRS reports very, very secret. Often this is because the CRS -- who has a very strong reputation for quality, non-biased, non-partisan, non-lobbying-influenced work -- produces research that shows that various Congressional proposals are a joke. And Congress doesn't want that info let out. Three years ago, Wikileaks jumpstarted some discussion by releasing thousands of CRS reports, but many think that the information, as public domain, should be more widely available.

Last year, we wrote about a bunch of groups sending a letter to Congress asking them to support making CRS reports public -- and it looks like some in Congress may actually be paying attention. Rep. Leonard Lance has introduced (with Reps. Quigley, Johnson, Cooper and Schiff) a resolution to make certain CRS publications available to the public. It's unclear if this has any chance of going anywhere, but it's good to see some interest in this issue.

The resolution asks the Clerk of the House to work with CRS to "establish and maintain a centralized, searchable, bulk downloadable, electronic database" which will include a bunch of CRS documents. Specifically:
(A) Congressional Research Service Issue Briefs.

(B) Congressional Research Service Reports.

(C) Congressional Research Service Authorization of Appropriations Products and Appropriations Products.

(D) Materials intended or available for general congressional distribution that are the same or substantially similar in content to CRS Reports, Issue Briefs, and Appropriations Products.
Having this info public would be a huge boon for the public. Hopefully Congress actually pays attention.

Filed Under: congress, congressional research service, public domain

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  1. icon
    Lorpius Prime (profile), 20 Jul 2012 @ 1:59am

    If it happens...

    I just hope we're prepared for a fight to make sure the reports stay high-quality, unbiased, non-partisan, and free of lobbyist influence. Because once they become footballs in public debates, there'll be significant pressure to make them say whatever the politicians commissioning the studies want.

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