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United States Announcements

U.S. to Digitize All Tangible Gov't. Publications 121

CETS writes "The U.S. Government Printing Office is working with the library community on a national digitization plan, with the goal of digitizing a complete legacy collection of tangible U.S. Government publications. The objective is to ensure that the digital collection is available, in the public domain, for no-fee permanent public access through the FDLP. See specific article for more detail."
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U.S. to Digitize All Tangible Gov't. Publications

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  • LoC (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 12, 2005 @05:09AM (#12793792)
    When will they completely digitize the Library of Congress?
    • Re:LoC (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PornMaster ( 749461 )
      The government doesn't hold copyright on all of the documents in the Library of Congress. I don't think it's a feasible thing to do.
      • Copyright law seems so murky to me -- the Government doesn't hold the copyrights, naturally, but who issues copyrights?
        • Despite the fact that the US federal government issues the copyright, it is doing so (article 8, section 8, US Constitution) To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

          Violating that exclusivity violates the Constitution... at least as far as Congress has legislated. I don't think it would be legal to pass a retroactive exception for the government to publish the works in questi
          • by akb ( 39826 )
            You missed the earlier part about "The Congress shall have Power To", meaning copyright exists at Congress' option, it is not mandated by the Constitution. Thus, violating Copyright is a violation of a law put in place by Congress, not anything in the Constitution.
            • Given the 10th Amendment, isn't anything that Congress doesn't cover under the jurisdiction of the states, and specifically not the Federal Government? If so, isn't it in violation of the Constitution for any other Federal agency to butt in?
              • Nope. The 10th Amendment talks about power the "United States" has, not powers Congress has.
              • Given the 10th Amendment...

                Your forgetting the "neccesary and proper" clause tacted onto the end of Article 1. That, combined with the interstate commerace clause, gives congress all the authority in the world to do whatever the hell they want.

                Now, extend that view to a strict construtionist view and see how quickly we can go to (and are already at) a very scary place.
                • Yes, the Supremes, in the 50's, decided that growing wheat for personal consumption constituted interstate commerce, as the farmer might have bought the wheat interstate, had he not grown it himself. It's all been downhill from there. "The Judiciary of the United States is the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working under ground to undermine the foundations of our confederated fabric." -- Thomas Jefferson, 1820
            • I can see how a federal judge might rule that repealing even the Bono Act might not be constitutional: "The Congress shall have Power ... to secure ... exclusive Rights", not to un-secure them. Rolling back copyprivilege terms of an existing work might violate the takings clause of the fifth article of amendment.

              • Rolling back copyprivilege terms of an existing work might violate the takings clause of the fifth article of amendment.
                Copyright is a privilege that may be asserted, licensed, assigned, and expired. It is not "private property".
        • We should ammend copyright to last a maximum of 7 years or $1 Million net sales whichever comes first. The it gets digitized by the library.
          • We should ammend copyright to last a maximum of 7 years

            That would require the United States to drop out of the Berne Convention, which mandates a copyright term of at least life plus 50 years. Given that only Berne parties may remain in the World Trade Organization, watch the value of the United States dollar drop even more than it already has.

      • But doesn't the Federal Government hold copyright on its own publications, which is what the article says it wants to digitize?
        • Usually it does not, because works of officers and employees of the federal government, in their official capacities, are not copyrightable. 17 USC 105.
    • Gov't doesn't nold copyright? Irrelevant surely - this is a clear case of FAIR USE, digitizing items in their collection for easier retrieval and for backup.
      • Huh? One of the things about Fair Use is that there are not very many things that are clear about it. In fact, it can even change over time -- what used to be fair use may not be anymore. This is largely because things that uses which used to be really hard to compensate the owner for have become much easier thanks to technology. Consider music: just about anybody can go to BMI or ASCAP online and buy a fairly inexpensive license. 20 years ago, that would have been much harder.

        Consider what would happ
    • I have a better question. note:

      complete legacy collection of tangible U.S. Government publications

      When will they digitize the intangible publications?
  • Digitalisation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FidelCatsro ( 861135 ) <fidelcatsro&gmail,com> on Sunday June 12, 2005 @05:17AM (#12793808) Journal
    Having a collective base of all government documents online is indeed a noble goal , perhaps consideration could be made to include digitalisation of all Literary works which have fallen into the public domain.
    Marilyn vos Savant (I believe it was Von Savant)wrote about the entire collection of the worlds literature being contained on just 2 discs , it would be nice to think that we are one step closer to having something of that ilk easily accessible even if it is just for government records at the moments.
    Hopefully within the next 50 years we shall see actually see paper go the way of the Dodo and which would certainly be rather grand from an ecological stand point considering how expensive printed publishing can be (storage space , ecological impact , and ink)
    • Re:Digitalisation (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And, see a rise in prescription eyeglass sales... staring at a monitor to read everything can and does fuck up ones eyes.
    • Re:Digitalisation (Score:3, Interesting)

      Hopefully within the next 50 years we shall see actually see paper go the way of the Dodo and which would certainly be rather grand from an ecological stand point

      You mean it would be more ecological to replace paper, which is relatively clean to produce and which also decomposeses naturally, with products of the semiconductor industry (hideously poisonous processes and materials which are not biodegradeable) ?

      Then there's also the problem of reading large amounts of text on a screen. At least I have t

      • Of-course computers are not going anywhere and are here to stay so more and more will be produced hopefully more efficiently as time passes , paper however is an unnecessary waste of resources .
        • I don't see how producing and using paper would be an unnecessary waste of resources. Unless you figure out a way to make computers out of biodegradable materials, paper will always be more environmentally friendly media than computers.

          Printouts/films are also a more robust way to store important data than any digital media. I regularly print out all my important e-mails and store them in a binder. Why? Because I've lost such e-mails too many times. Partly because of my mistakes and partly because someone

          • So far , Digital media will continue to evolve which is why i gave the 50 year time frame as so far continual backups are needed and always will be i imagine but to a far lesser extent in regularity stakes.
            Why i see paper as an unnecessary waste of resources is that we simply could do without it though i do believe till the technology is perfect it wont happen .
            • Whick is really worse? Cutting down and replanting trees(or hemp) for low tech, low maintenance, long lasting paper or or building up and having to maintain all the infrastructure needed to go digital? Try to consider all the electricity used just to run the computers, then all that A/C that will be needed to keep them from spontaneously combusting. The staff needed for back up, security, upgrades, etc. And of course you know what happens when the power goes out. Our knowledge of electricity, and physics in
          • Digital media is just too volatile to be trusted with any long term storage.

            You got it [slashdot.org].
      • Actually the question is: since we *are* moving towards ubiquitous computer access, whether we should *also* being printing on paper. It isn't an either/or question because computers do excel at some tasks, and so the real question becomes whether there is ecological value in using them for everything after they already are everywhere.
        • Even if the computers were everywhere, I'd still feel much more comfortable with the redundancy provided by physical media. I also don't see why the paper was singled out as the ecological threat here. I'd rather oppose ubiquitous computer access since it's not inevitable nor necessary.

          But then again maybe it's just because I personally hate reading any text on a computer screen -- no matter how good the display is. If there's a lot of text, I'll print it out on sheets of nice acid-free and recyclable pap

    • perhaps consideration could be made to include digitalisation of all Literary works which have fallen into the public domain.

      Excellent idea, which is why quite a few of us are doing just that. If you'd like to help Project Gutenberg's effort to digitise the public domain, then join our Distributed Proofreading [pgdp.net] site and get to work! Over 6000 books turned into electronic text form so far.
      • I would love to help , although i feel my disabilities may make it a rather mammoth task for me that would eat far too much time(6 typos in this paragraph alone ;) ), however i will inform a few friends of the effort as i do have several friends with far better spelling and writing skills than I
      • If you'd like to help Project Gutenberg's effort to digitise the public domain, then join our Distributed Proofreading site and get to work!

        What happens in a few decades once DP has digitized all "important" English literary works first published on or before 1922?

    • My curiousity is piqued by the idea of getting a hold on the 13-ish budget bills that Congress staggers towards passing annually, in its palsied fashion.
      Are these documents just scans of hardcopy (what you'd expect) or will some be transferred in some .pdf-ish format?
      It would be a great Summer of Code project to do some indexing and analysis to figure out WTF.
      Government accounting, as Ghandi said of western civilization, would be a great idea.
    • Orwell's department of history would love you. History rewritten as you watch.

      History is already too maleable and subject to revision at a passing political whim. Why do you want to make it easier to lie about what has happened?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 12, 2005 @05:21AM (#12793811)
    "...tangible U.S. Government publications"

    When can we expect to see the intangible publications?

  • as long as the government doesn't subject 99% of the documents to classified status, I think that it's quite a noble goal.

    Have other governments around the world done this?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I think the problem is they say "Public Domain"

      without identifying that recently the status "Public Domain" has changed (I think it was in 2003???) and no longer means freely available to the public domain rather you must go through an accredited public domain reseller to buy a copy.

      This stinks.
      • without identifying that recently the status "Public Domain" has changed (I think it was in 2003???) and no longer means freely available to the public domain rather you must go through an accredited public domain reseller to buy a copy.

        In what country? Under US law, "public domain" means that copyright in the work has expired entirely, not that it has passed to a cartel of accredited publishers.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      In the Faroe Islands (tiny speck on world map between Iceland-Norway-Shetland) all newspapers and legal matters have been subject to digitization by law for some years now and work is steadily progressing.

      There are historical documents dating hundreds upon hundreds of years back so it'll take some time before the project is concluded.

      The idea is to make available to the public domain any publication released henceforth as well as any previously published publication.
  • too bad (Score:2, Insightful)

    Too bad many of them have been reclassified in order to keep people ignorant, er, I mean, protect us from terrorists.
  • Will the post office bother continuing to service Pueblo, Colorado?
  • Is Slashdot a Government Publication?

    Woah, close one.
  • Open Format? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Winckle ( 870180 )
    Will the US government choose an open standard to allow everyone access to the documents? Or will we have to put up with bloated .docs?
    • The content will be encoded in an open format. Although the commercial sector encourage the US government to endorse proprietary formats, the library community are well aware and have played a huge role in advancing open standards. The GPO have been planning these actions for the last 5 years and have visited various public bodies around the world to fully understand their commitment.
    • Re:Open Format? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cranos ( 592602 )
      Doc's too easy to modify, would probably be PDF or something like it.
      • ...unfortunately, the US fed gov't often uses .doc and .xls on its documents by default. Want examples? [hhs.gov] Look inside the .zip files...what could just as easily be small delimited files are wrapped up in a lovely .xls protective shell.
    • According to the state of Massachusetts, proprietary or encumbered Microsoft Office formats are "open formats". Massachusetts state law is not federal law, but you can see how a lack of deep understanding and resolve to demand something better from business ends up hurting the public interest. Here's hoping that federally this receives more citizen-oriented thought. This is a political problem that will require ongoing political pressure to resolve in favor of the citizenry.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 12, 2005 @06:00AM (#12793897)
    Like to see the electrical code, fire code, building codes digitized and made available to the public instead of forcing citizens to purchase the law or take a ride to the library or county clerk to find out what the law is.

    Note to any county/state workers out there. Stop adopting the above codes by reference. Print the codes into your public documents so they can't be copyrighted and withheld/sold to the public.

    Being forced to spend $70+ per code may work for electricians making $100+ per hour, but it doesn't work for the rest of the citizens. Ignorance of the law is no excuse? How about lack of listing the law on your county/state websites in a printable format is no excuse either?

    ASME or whatever the mechanic's organization was doing this also. Thankfully the company hired to put together the standards GPL'd them. The ruckus this created when the mechanic's organization found out (court case) they couldn't force their own mechanics to buy standards instead of copying them, someone should find this and post the link here. Its a very enlightening read. The mechanics organization forcing their own membership to buy standards. They represent the mechanics. They speak for them. And the organization turns around and hits them in the head so they can generate a slush fund for their headquarters.

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    • Nice rant, but in your world where everything is free, who pays for all the time and materials required to produce a code?
  • about 20 years ago (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pair-a-noyd ( 594371 ) on Sunday June 12, 2005 @06:08AM (#12793915)
    I saw a movie on cable about the future, ALL knowledge was stored on a single computer in Belgium. There were no more printed materials, it was evil to kill trees and the computer made knowledge available, at will.

    The guy had to look up something about some shady government plot and as he began to dig into the computer banks, he began to notice big holes in history, big holes in time. The computer was deleting records to cover up crimes committed by big shots at the top.

    The more he dug in, the more things vaporized.
    And being it was the sole repository of knowledge in the universe, well, that was that..

    The name of the computer? Yep. You guessed it.
    The Beast.

    I can not for the life of me remember what that movie was named and I've never seen it again since the early 80's.. Did it self-terminate also??

    IMO, I would much rather have printed books in my hand, I can pick up a book and find something in seconds, I can spend endless hours trying to find something on the computer. Besides, reading from a screen is just not a very pleasant experience, compared to a book in hand.
    • IMO, I would much rather have printed books in my hand, I can pick up a book and find something in seconds, I can spend endless hours trying to find something on the computer

      You must be the only person on /. who doesn't use google.

      But seriously, any large scale document search, particularly done over a large geographical area, has to be electronic.

      Electronic documents are more accessible, which can only be good for people who want information about their Government.

      • by pair-a-noyd ( 594371 ) on Sunday June 12, 2005 @06:54AM (#12793991)
        You must be the only person on /. who doesn't use google.
        But seriously, any large scale document search, particularly done over a large geographical area, has to be electronic.
        Electronic documents are more accessible, which can only be good for people who want information about their Government.


        Actually, I do use google, among several search engines.

        Yeah, it's out there, if you want to know what Brad Pitt eats for breakfast or Paris Hilton's panties color and size, or the lyrics to the hottest rap song. But, try to find obscure, OLD, non-mainstream information. Good luck to ya..

        First off you have to wade through hundreds of bullshit commercial links. I often try to locate service information, articles, reviews, schematics, photos, etc. for antiquated things, electronics and mechanical. Things 10, 20, 30, 50 years old.. Eh eh..
        90% of the information that I seek is NOT online. It USED to be in books but it's now too old and we all now that OLD is BAD and NEW is GOOD.
        Out with the old and in with the new!

        No, really, for example, I have an antique classic Mercedes. I have SOME of the factory service manuals for it. When I got the car some years back I went to the dealship and ordered a set of printed manuals. They cost me a pretty penny. Well, the kid at the service window informed me that there were about 12 manuals in all and that I didn't really need them all.
        Already reeling from the shock of the first batch I ordered I trimmed the order down, so that I ended up with only the most critical manuals, engine, chassis, and wiring. Stupid me. At the time, it got me by. Now, I want the HVAC, body and drivetrain/transmission manuals plus some others on the power accessories. Eh eh....
        Mercedes no longer prints manuals on paper.
        Yeah, I prowl ebay trying to

        I can order the manuals on CDROM but I do not want them on CDROM. I can't take a laptop out into my driveway when I'm all greasy, trying to find stuff and can't read it in the sun, worrying about dropping and breaking it, spilling something in it, etc.. That's stupid.
        With the book I can drop it, get it dirty, etc. Big deal. And I can hold that book in my hand and flip the pages and find something in a fraction of the time I would spend trying to find it on a computer.

        I'm sorry but I don't embrace this new digital revolution with all the enthusiasm as everyone else.

        And one last thing. When those books are mine, in my house, on my shelf, no one is going to virus them up and knock them offline. I can read them anytime I like, under MY terms and conditions, not some draconian bullshit DRM communist copyright shit.

        • And one last thing. When those books are mine, in my house, on my shelf, no one is going to virus them up and knock them offline. I can read them anytime I like, under MY terms and conditions, not some draconian bullshit DRM communist copyright shit.
          Wouldn't that be "Authoritarian"?? Communism isn't necessarily evil or restrictive...it was the Autocratic Government of Soviet Russia that was the problem... And they had a simpler method...they just burned the books.
          • Communism, in a large organisation, IS inherrently totalitraian. It's not the only such system, and it's probably inappropriate to single it out (except that it's mainly a swear word without meaning). Totalitarian is the concept that he's objecting to, but for some strange reason our government doesn't print propaganda vilifying ALL forms of totalitarianism, only one. And it's even stopped doing that, pretty much.

            Communism and fascism share the characteristic of having one strong man, or small elite, in
        • I have been trying to locate a decent manual for my Roman Charriot. I mean when they were published they were chiseled into rock, ya think they last, but nooooo people just make footpaths out of them...., Mercedes, you insenitive clod.


        • I can order the manuals on CDROM but I do not want them on CDROM. I can't take a laptop out into my driveway when I'm all greasy, trying to find stuff and can't read it in the sun, worrying about dropping and breaking it, spilling something in it, etc.. That's stupid.
          With the book I can drop it, get it dirty, etc. Big deal. And I can hold that book in my hand and flip the pages and find something in a fraction of the time I would spend trying to find it on a computer.


          For about $150--which is pocket chan
          • let's not forget that if you have the manual as a CD-ROM, you can do a bitcopy and back it up even if the darn thing uses DRM.

            Not necessarily. What happens when the program used to read the manual detects whether the manual is being loaded from a pressed CD-ROM or from a CD-R?

            • What happens when the program used to read the manual detects whether the manual is being loaded from a pressed CD-ROM or from a CD-R?

              You return it back and demand your money back. Small claims court is good for this.

              IIRC, US federal law guarantees you the right to make archival copies of every digital thing you purchase.

              (And let's not forget the "you shouldnt' make doing the right thing harder than doing the wrong thing" line. Or that telling the medium of the CD-ROM requires a more direct interface
      • "You must be the only person on /. who doesn't use google."

        Google can only find what IS online. There have been a number of times when I've wanted some tidbit of information, and you'd be surprised how much ISN'T online.

        For example, I wanted to look up the old scandal around $400 screwdrivers. I found some things, but almost all of the references that I could find where MODERN references, many of which were contraditctory (prices varied, the actual items varied, etc). Then I found a lot of political sites
        • that how you end up with $400 screwdrivers and $3,000 airplane toilet seats.

          Whoever assigned the line item names screwed up and the quantity/amounts for those line items didn't take into account that cost over runs would leave the line item exposed.

          If YOU want to believe it was actually $3,000 for a toilet seat and that our government is run by idiots (well maybe :-) and would rather NOT believe that it was for something that the government doesn't want you to know about... Well believe what you want.

          The
          • I think you missed the point of my post. If you want to KNOW (not guess) what happened sometime before the Web existed (though the Internet did, at the time I'm talking about), you must use physical resources today. However, if the proposed digitization takes place, such research could be done online.
    • Damn you, I think I saw that too, and now I can't remember what it was. Was the computer in the shape of a number of pillars that resembled some sort of multi-headed hydra-beast?

      LS
  • ...smelly and useless.

    Well, it is possible that this idea would actually result in a digital collection of documents that were usable, but if it goes the way I've noted too many other digitisation efforts seem to go, then the result will be a stack of PDF documents that are no more than scanned images of pages with no OCR, thus no actual use.

    Of course it is possible that some bright spark will come along and run an OCR process over the standard scans that many document scanning systems seem to produce.

    Fr
    • Just a thought, but if they provide images rather than OCRed text, what is to stop us from applying OCR to their images? Of course, what you want is *all* the images OCRed, so you can do global searching. If only their existed somewhere a company that excelled at search technology with the gumption to take on a project as large as OCRing such an immense Public Domain repository. *cough* google *cough*
      • If only their existed somewhere a company that excelled at search technology with the gumption to take on a project as large as OCRing such an immense Public Domain repository. *cough* google *cough*


        Hmm, I cannot actually believe that I must confess that I didn't actually think of that. /me smacks forehead.
      • If only their existed somewhere a company ... with the gumption to take on a project as large as OCRing such an immense Public Domain repository.

        Or, indeed, a volunteer organisation [pgdp.net].
    • PDF *IS* a quick and dirty solution, and it has lots of problems. Simple text, however, has more problems. Many documents are dependent for their meaning on included illustrations or photographs. Such COULD be rendered into, say, xpm format, but that stops being such an automatic process (until someone designs the appropriate software).

      The trouble with pdfs which are encoded images is that frequently the quality of the copy is insufficient to process automatically into a more efficient format. Otherwis
  • One thing that should be a concern with this project is to make sure that plenty of paper documents still do exist. It may be very hard for future historians to work with our electronic data, and if everything the government does is eventually entirely digitized. Who knows if in 300 years someone will be able to open a .pdf or .doc file?
  • at LOGSA [army.mil] are great if one messes around with military surplus electronics. There are other sections with manuals for vehicles and aircraft.
  • by dysk ( 621566 ) on Sunday June 12, 2005 @08:41AM (#12794292)
    to digitize their documents, when they are so busy removing [doe.gov], reclassifying [bushsecrecy.org], and denying access to [epic.org] current government information.
  • The U.S. Government Printing Office is working with the library community on a national digitization plan, with the goal of digitizing a complete legacy collection of tangible U.S. Government publications. The objective is to ensure that the digital collection is available, in the public domain, for no-fee permanent public access through the FDLP.

    Unless of course any of that information would be useful in questioning the current Presidential administration's actions, pointing out where they are wrong, or
    • by hey! ( 33014 )
      Unless providing information to the public could be construed.as competing with the private sector, since private sector entities sell information. How soon will we see a bill like this [loc.gov], that turns the government into a subsidized wholesaler of information for well connected companies?
  • Well, if all these documents are digitized, and, as my cousin the high end Lawyer tells it "PDF is the only way to go for documents as changes are constantly / continuously tracked"
    Then ADOBE can start charging for it's reader:
    "Aw shucks Martha in order to read our water bill we gotta SUBSCRIBE to ADOBE Reader"
    Where's my broker's number? Crap - I let the phone subscription expire.
  • Yeah! This will be great. During the 60's-70's Nasa paid for these GREAT research notes on topics like, skin tight space suits, atomic rocket engines, stuff that should get revisited. Can't wait.. . . http://www.threatchaos.com/ [threatchaos.com]
  • Now how about they open up all of those government databases that you now need Lexis/Nexis to search? How about they finally create a site that lets me search what my tax dollars pay for in the first place?
  • So much easier to purge inconvenient digital records by pushing a button or letting a cronjob run, than to shred all that paper. OTOH, a law requiring the Feds to stash all digital records in redundant "backups", encrypted, but with loggable key escrow protected by due process, would give us the best of both worlds: convenient records, inconveniently preservable for accountability. If they committed all the data to plaintext, on self-contained (solar powered) players, recorded on metal tapes like airplane b
  • ....if the 95% of state government information that I needed was online. So, who wants to volunteer to scan the millions of deeds in the county court house?
  • Are bank notes "government publications"?
  • ...by some private contractor crony of the Bush administration and/or powerful members of Congress. Who will it be? Lexis-Nexis?
  • Is there some kind of automated mechanism to digitize books and magazines without a ton of manual effort? I used a flatbed scanner to scan quite a few magazines, and while this worked excellently in terms of the output, I have far more printed material than I would ever have time to digitize in this manner.

A holding company is a thing where you hand an accomplice the goods while the policeman searches you.

Working...