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The online operating manual for your government is now more complete… Not the type of “code” we’re usually posing here!

From a paper-choked sublet office in Sebastopol, Carl Malamud is operating a kind of nonprofit Napster, with offerings a little less sexy than the music of Metallica, Dr. Dre and Green Day.

Example: 404.1. All plumbing fixtures, other than water closets and urinals, shall be equipped with approved strainers having an approved waterway area.

That’s a snippet of the 2007 California Plumbing Code, a print version of which might cost $125. But Malamud purchased the code and placed it on his Web site – and now anybody can download all 526 riveting pages free.

Or the building codes, fire codes, or mechanical codes from California, San Francisco or Los Angeles. Or millions of pages of other codes, all legally obtained by Malamud, who then uploaded them to public.resource.org for anybody to take, even though many of them are copyrighted.

“Not everybody is going to read the building code, but everybody who wants to should be able to without putting 100 bucks in the slot,” Malamud said. “Primary legal materials are America’s operating system.”

His actions perturb government agencies, technical organizations and publishers who create, maintain and sell books of codes. While some say they do not plan to oppose Malamud’s efforts, others question the legality of his site and the wisdom of his actions.

Thanks Derek!

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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