Sebastopol man puts code manuals online. The operating manual for your government is now more complete..

Computers & Mobile
Sebastopol man puts code manuals online. The operating manual for your government is now more complete..

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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 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!

8 thoughts on “Sebastopol man puts code manuals online. The operating manual for your government is now more complete..

  1. Perry Jones says:

    Fantastic stuff. I’m downloading my state’s codes right now. This way when I work on the house I can be sure I’m doing things correctly.

    If the people putting these codes online face lawsuits, I hope they are willing and able to fight the good fight, and I hope they win their suits.

  2. Jack says:

    “others question the … wisdom of his actions.”

    Exactly! Because the average citizen shouldn’t be allowed to know the rules!

    Unless the average citizen breaks those rules, and then we’ll make sure they know exactly how they screwed up! Fines and Jail time, baby!

    (Wow, I used a lot of exclamation points!)

  3. Sleepydog says:

    Carl is a true hero, selflessly going far out of his way to help others be informed. This is a great resource of public information. We as taxpayers paid for these codes to be created, but we have to pay again to read them. Carl is retuning our documents to us, thank you Carl. Keep up the excellent work.

  4. Antinomy Minor says:

    “Code” is a compelling pun, but there is a fundamental difference between laws written for humans, and rules written for machines.

    In a computer, nothing happens before you tell it to happen. The map and the territory are the same thing.

    In the human world, people and institutions will pretty much do anything they can get away with, and then shape the law afterwords. The law is always lagging behind reality.

    It’s tempting to look at the operating system of the government and want to play with it like some open source toolbox, but unless you’ve got a posse on the ground, unless you have the power to alter reality without permission, then a polite brushoff is the best you can expect from the ones who wrote the code.

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