Public Safety Codes of the World: Stand Up For Safety!

58 Support this project on KickstarterLane Rasberry works for Consumer Reports, the United States member of Consumers International, but this post is his personal opinion and not a statement of Consumer Reports.

Public.Resource.Org recognizes the convergence between public participation in government, access to information, and consumer rights by providing online government media for free and tracking its use and impact. The organization addresses the problems that arise when government-produced media which is intended for free use by the public is inaccessible due to not being online or even due to only being available from third-party companies which have special relationships to distribute free government materials for a fee. Public.Resource.Org is based in California and since its establishment in 2007 has achieved some remarkable victories in increasing government transparency in the United States, including publication of the majority of United States Federal Court records, the digitization of thousands of hours of archival government videos, and increasing awareness of the great resources which the government makes available for free.

But the organization has never intended to restrict activism to the United States, and in their latest campaign - Public Safety Codes of the World: Stand Up For Safety! - they aim to collect the safety standards of every country in the world, digitize them in a machine readable format with good metadata for library cataloging, and distribute them for free online to anyone who wants to read them. “Safety standards” refers to sets of guidelines directing the manufacture of safe products, and the establishment and continual maintenance of these standards is a fundamental directive in the international consumer movement. Even though these standards are supposed to be enforced by law, in practice, if they are not online for everyone to see then consumers are disempowered to assert their right to demand that manufacturers follow them. The Stand Up For Safety! project is an answer to several major consumer concerns - the lack of online safety information, inability to discuss unwarranted variations in standards of consumer safety across geographic boundaries, the inability for the public to have source documents to assist them in considering how the products they use meet their government’s laws, and the lack of accountability that pervades manufacturing processes when minimal standards are not available for everyone to read.

“Rogue Archivist” Carl Malamud, founder of Public.Resource.Org and head of the project, has a history of success in contacting government offices and pressuring them to be direct in telling whether the laws they keep are for the public or not to be shown. Too often government officials feel that they have no authority to let consumers publish and redistribute laws, just because before the age of digitization no one considered these things and just because navigating and articulating copyright concerns seems difficult. This safety standards project will be for some government offices their first exposure to the idea that consumers want to know what laws are available to protect them, and by putting this information on the Internet, everyone can be sure that anyone searching for this information will be able to find it.

Public.Resource.Org is managing a fundraiser to support this project. The donation system is through KickStarter, which is a short-term solicitation platform scheduled to collect funding for this initiative through Monday Oct 28, 11am PDT. The platform accepts various currencies and even the smallest donations, which still show support. For people who might like to support the project in a non-financial way, feel free to contact Public.Resource.Org. They have several million documents which need to be sorted and several billion more in queue to be requested from every government, and the team could use a few more volunteers to manage this.

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