Tom MacWright

The Open Code

tl;dr: thanks to good people, we now have an unencumbered digital copy of dc’s laws. let’s meet april 14th in washington, dc to realize the massive potential of this

I couldn’t be happier to write that the project to bring DC’s laws into the digital era and put them in everyone’s hands made a big breakthrough: today you can download an unofficial copy of the Code (current through December 11, 2012) from the DC Council’s website. Not only that, but the licensing for this copy is officially CC0, a Creative Commons license that aims to be a globally-effective Public Domain designation.

A lot of people made this possible: Ben Bryant was extremely understanding through more than 50 emails over more than four months, Carl Malamud made the brilliant move of digitizing and distributing the code, declaring DC’s copyright invalid. Josh Tauberer made the vital contact with V David Zvenyach, who together cleaned files delivered by WestLaw in accordance to H.11.1 of the contract. And many journalists took the time to understand the issue, speak clearly, and make this a reality.

A massive thanks to everyone involved.

There are a few things that this isn’t: it isn’t the official copy of the code, and lawyers would be ill-advised to cite it alone. It isn’t up-to-date - the council is fast-moving and this is just a snapshot. In time we’ll fix these problems too.

And so the floodgates are open - now that we have the raw data, so many applications of this information are possible. I propose we meet April 14th in Washington, DC to realize the massive potential of this.

What else is there to build? A great smartphone interface. Topic-specific bookmarks. Text analysis. Great, instant search. Mirrored archives to everywhere. Printable copies for DIY and for print-on-demand services. And lots more.

We’re not waiting till then to start though: dc-decoded is a project I started today to finish the long-awaited task of bringing DC’s laws into The State Decoded. The openlawdc organization on GitHub is dedicated to working on these problems, and it’s open: you can and should get access if you want to contribute.