Exclusive Rights to GAO Legislative Histories Sold to Thomson West?
Boing Boing reports on Carl Malamud's investigation of the exclusive deal in which the Government Accountability Office has contracted with Thomson West to provide complete federal legislative histories compiled by GAO law librarians.
John Wonderlich of the Sunlight Foundation alerted me to a situation about a month ago that we've been pursuing (with EFF's help) at the Government Accountability Office, which is an arm of the U.S. Congress.
The law librarians at GAO have compiled complete federal legislative histories from 1915 on. These are the definitive dossiers that track a bill through the hearing process and into law. If you want to divine the intent of Congress, this is where you go.
GAO cut a contract with Thomson West to have these documents scanned. Thomson West claims they have exclusive access to these public documents and even go so far as to boast that you should purchase this exclusive "product" from West because the GAO law librarians (public employees!) have done all the work for you!
If you're interesting in tracking this issue, I've [Carl Malamud] created a Scribd group that has all the documents we've obtained so far. Next step: we asked for a copy of every document scanned under the FOIA laws!