For this week's awesome stuff
, we're going to highlight two projects that seek to bring out into the open things that are being held in secret for no good reason at all
- Public Safety Codes of the World. We've written many times about Carl Malamud and his work with Public.Resource.org to buy up various "standards" that have been incorporated into US laws, and then making them freely available to the public, under the belief that the law should never be locked up and subject to copyright protections. Tragically, many standards are written by industry bodies, who then try to support themselves by selling (at exorbitant prices) copies of the details of those standards. But when politicians then write those standards into the law, it seems quite reasonable that the details of the standards really should be free. This is expensive work, since it involves buying up lots of standards and (all too frequently) fending off legal attacks. Given that, Malamud is seeking at least $100,000 to continue Public.Resource's work. The key goal behind this particular effort is to take many of the standards they've already scanned and turn them into HTML to make them much more accessible and usable.
This is a good cause that you should support. Malamud has been doing tremendous work for years. So far the campaign has only raised about 20% of its $100,000 goal. That's unfortunate, since, as the project description makes clear, the more they can get, the more they can do with that money. If you have a couple of spare dollars around, please think about supporting this.
Next up is a really interesting project from Underground Meats, where they're looking to Open Source their Food Safety Model. I had seen a couple friends back this, but didn't really look into the details until later. Basically, this is a small meat processing facility that is trying to become a USDA-certified meat processor. Apparently, the process is incredibly cumbersome and convoluted (welcome to having to deal with government bureaucracy). There is, of course, good intent behind some of this: the process to make sure that your meat production is safe should require some effort. But, at the same time, as we've seen for years, many companies have used massive bureaucratic regulatory schemes as an effective way to keep out small and innovative competitors, because the barrier to entry is so high. Here, no one is complaining about the need for a detailed food safety and sanitary practice plan, known as a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) as part of the process -- but they are annoyed that every company going through this process needs to start from scratch, rather than learning from and building on those who have already gone through the process. Most big companies who have gone through the HACCP process then lock it up, claiming that they're covered by copyright.
That's where this project comes in. The folks at Underground Meats are looking to not just "open source" their HACCP, but public domain it, by putting using a CC0 license to effectively dedicate the work to the public domain so others can make use of it.
This is a cool approach, showing where copyright can impact things way beyond basic content creation. If lots of small companies in regulated industries could use the lead of others, without cost, to get through the various regulatory hurdles, we'd likely see a lot more innovative and upstart competition in overly regulated industries. It would be cool to see others follow this lead. This project has about a week to go and is around 90% funded, so it seems likely that it will just nudge its way over the finish line before it's all over.
I wish I had a third crowdfunding project highlighting opening up safety standards, but this is all I can find so far. It's a start.