The Ultimate in Open Government: Unlocking the Laws

As part of its regular social media routine, the District of Columbia Council’s official Twitter feed periodically links to obscure or odd provisions of the D.C. Code, like rules governing jostling rights: “Jostle away, but only if a breach of the peace may NOT be occasioned,” the Council’s Twitter feed informed its followers in June.

It may not seem like a big milestone, but the fact that D.C. Council staffers — or anyone for that matter — can simply link to a specific section of the D.C. Code is cause for celebration in digital circles. Until relatively recently, permalinking, which has been a routine Internet function for years, had been out of reach for those working with the D.C. Code.

While information portals like Westlaw and LexisNexis — the latter of which hosts the District government’s law code — are paid to be repositories for local government information, their platforms routinely frustrate Web developers, public officials and open government advocates. In some cases, because of their contractual obligations, local governments are prohibited from releasing the raw data of their jurisdiction’s official law code, legislation and regulations, which can limit access to public information. Continue>>>