“A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps, both”*…
For the past 25 years or so, Carl Malamud’s lonely mission has been to seize on the internet’s potential for spreading information — public information that people have a right to see, hear, and read. “Heroes for me are ones who take risks in pursuit of something they think is good,” says Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive and a frequent collaborator of Malamud’s. “He is in that category.”
Indeed, Malamud has had remarkable success and true impact. If you have accessed EDGAR, the free Securities and Exchange Commission database of corporate information, you owe a debt to Malamud. Same with the database of patents, or the opinions of the US Court of Appeals. Without Malamud, the contents of the Federal Register might still cost $1,700 instead of nothing. If you have listened to a podcast, note that it was Carl Malamud who pioneered the idea of radio-like content on internet audio — in 1993. And so on. As much as any human being on the planet, this unassuming-looking proprietor of a one-man nonprofit — a bald, diminutive, bespectacled 57-year-old — has understood and exploited the net (and the power of the printed word, as well) for disseminating information for the public good…
“If a law isn’t public, it isn’t a law.”
-Justice Stephen Breyer
* President James Madison, 1822
As we illuminate the “open” signs, we might recall that it was on this date in 1857 that Timothy Alden was granted U.S. Patent No. 18,175 for the design of a typesetting machine, the first such machine that actually operated… though not terrifically trustworthily nor effectively. Still it spawned a number of competitors– and finally, in 1884, the Linotype machine, which became an industry standard.