Sapping Attention: How badly is Google Books search broken, and why?

I periodically write about Google Books here, so I thought I’d point out something that I’ve noticed recently that should be concerning to anyone accustomed to treating it as the largest collection of books: it appears that when you use a year constraint on book search, the search index has dramatically constricted to the point of being, essentially, broken….

What’s going on? I don’t know. I guess I blame the lawyers: I suspect that the reasons have to do with the way the Google books project has become a sort of Herculaneum-on-the-Web, frozen in time at the moment that anti-Books lawsuits erupted in earnest 11 years ago. The site is still littered with pre-2012 branding and icons, and the still-live “project history” page ends with the words “stay tuned…” after describing their annual activity for 2007….”

Opinion | Public Records Belong to the Public – The New York Times

“There’s no reason for the federal government to profit from access to court documents….

Pacer, a 30-year-old relic that remains unwieldy to use, is a collection of online portals run by the administrative arm of the federal court system. It was designed, at least in principle, to provide online access to the more than one billion court documents that have been docketed in federal courts across the country since the advent of electronic case filing.

But the public can gain access to these public documents online only by paying significant fees. Pacer charges 10 cents per page to view electronic court documents — or up to $3 for documents exceeding 30 pages, which are common. It’s easy to burn up $10 just by looking up rudimentary information about a single case….

The E-Government Act of 2002 says that courts may impose fees “only to the extent necessary” to make public records available. That phrase is now at the center of a class-action lawsuit brought by nonprofit advocacy groups. The groups are challenging the fee structure of the Pacer system, which in 2016 took in $146 million, despite costing only a small fraction of that to operate….

There’s also an admirable bill that was introduced last year in Congress, the Electronic Court Records Reform Act, that goes a step further than what is being sought in the class-action suit. It would make all documents filed with the federal courts available free to the public. (In 2017, the Supreme Court, often a late adopter of new technologies, made virtually all of its new court filings freely available online.) The legislation also would mandate needed updates to Pacer, including making documents text-searchable and linkable from external websites….”

Opinion | Public Records Belong to the Public – The New York Times

“There’s no reason for the federal government to profit from access to court documents….

Pacer, a 30-year-old relic that remains unwieldy to use, is a collection of online portals run by the administrative arm of the federal court system. It was designed, at least in principle, to provide online access to the more than one billion court documents that have been docketed in federal courts across the country since the advent of electronic case filing.

But the public can gain access to these public documents online only by paying significant fees. Pacer charges 10 cents per page to view electronic court documents — or up to $3 for documents exceeding 30 pages, which are common. It’s easy to burn up $10 just by looking up rudimentary information about a single case….

The E-Government Act of 2002 says that courts may impose fees “only to the extent necessary” to make public records available. That phrase is now at the center of a class-action lawsuit brought by nonprofit advocacy groups. The groups are challenging the fee structure of the Pacer system, which in 2016 took in $146 million, despite costing only a small fraction of that to operate….

There’s also an admirable bill that was introduced last year in Congress, the Electronic Court Records Reform Act, that goes a step further than what is being sought in the class-action suit. It would make all documents filed with the federal courts available free to the public. (In 2017, the Supreme Court, often a late adopter of new technologies, made virtually all of its new court filings freely available online.) The legislation also would mandate needed updates to Pacer, including making documents text-searchable and linkable from external websites….”

The judiciary’s PACER paywall to access public court records makes millions.

“[On this podcast] the hosts will discuss PACER, the federal judiciary’s electronic records system, which has been raking in millions in fees to give people access to public court records. They’ll be joined by Deepak Gupta, an attorney who is leading the class-action lawsuit against PACER that alleges the system grossly overcharges.”

He’s been a rebel without pause – ALL – The Hindu

“On his Twitter bio, Carl Malamud describes himself as a civil servant. In real life, he seems to spend a lot of time coming up with new ways to get in trouble with civil servants worldwide. Over the last three years, he has been involved in six different court cases across three continents. His crime? Making public information accessible to the public.

At the 19th International World Wide Web Conference in 2010, Malamud articulated his ‘10 Rules for Radicals’. Among them was the commandment “run really fast” because, “as a small player, the elephant can step on you, but you can outrun the elephant.” Malamud, dressed in business formals ahead of what promises to be a typically hot and humid Mumbai day, has the aura of someone who never stops running….”

Author Organizations Allege Copyright Infringement by the Internet Archive

“In the same kind of solidarity they showed in calling for author contract reform from publishers, the United States’ Authors Guild and the United Kingdom’s Society of Authors are making simultaneous demands that the Internet Archive’s Open Library immediately stop lending scanned copies of physical books on their site.

Today (January 18), the Society of Authors in London has issued a media alert to its cease-and-desist open letter to the Internet Archive, and—as in previous instances in which the English-language world’s two largest author trade organizations have teamed up—the eloquence inherent in writers’ work is quickly apparent in how they’re putting across their message.

The Society of Authors refers in its open letter to the one issued by the Authors Guild, and in both cases, these professional bodies, each with some 10,000 members, are calling for their members and supporters to sign and submit the letters to the San Francisco-based Internet Archive.

At issue is what the Authors Guild in New York asserts is an “unauthorized copying, distribution, and display of books” that’s “shameful, unjust, and even inhumane.” …”

The two organizations oppose the theory that “it is fair use for libraries to scan or obtain scans of physical books that they own and loan those books through e-lending technologies, [even when] they apply certain restrictions akin to physical library loans, such as lending only one copy (either the digital copy or the physical copy) at a time and only for a defined loan period.”

Public domain scores a huge appeals court victory: the law cannot be copyrighted (UPDATED) – Boing Boing

Last week, Malamud and EFF his lawyers, Alston & Bird and Elizabeth Rader scored a massive victory in this fight: the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit struck down the state of Georgia’s bid to suppress the publication of its laws, upholding Malamud’s right to publish them. The appeals court’s decision was unequivocal in its support for the position that the law is free for all to read and write — and that Georgia’s bid to make its laws pay-to-read was unconstitutional and illegitimate….”

The Internet’s Own Instigator

“For the past 25 years or so, Carl Malamud’s lonely mission has been to seize on the internet’s potential for spreading information — public information that people have a right to see, hear, and read….

Indeed, Malamud has had remarkable success and true impact. If you have accessed EDGAR, the free Securities and Exchange Commission database of corporate information, you owe a debt to Malamud. Same with the database of patents, or the opinions of the US Court of Appeals. Without Malamud, the contents of the Federal Register might still cost $1,700 instead of nothing. If you have listened to a podcast, note that it was Carl Malamud who pioneered the idea of radio-like content on internet audio — in 1993. And so on. As much as any human being on the planet, this unassuming-looking proprietor of a one-man nonprofit — a bald, diminutive, bespectacled 57-year-old — has understood and exploited the net (and the power of the printed word, as well) for disseminating information for the public good….”

Carl Malamud open letter to Georgia General Assembly and RELX

“I am writing in the matter of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA). Despite a crystal-clear unanimous decision from United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on October 19, 2018, holding that people have the absolute right to speak and read Georgia’s official laws, I have been been unable to purchase a current copy of the OCGA….”