We've blogged a couple of times about Carl Malmud's efforts to provide free access to U.S. cases and other important documents (see: Case Law Just Wants To Be Free and Carl Malmud Publishes Cases). Now Boing Boing reports that Malmud's efforts to gain access to U.S. federal legislative histories has run into a block in the form of Thomson West. Complied by law librarians at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the histories have been scanned by Thomson West pursuant to a deal they made with the GAO; and now Thomson West claims an exclusive right to the documents.
Malmud has set up a Scribd site where he's posted the various documents that comprise the public aspects of the matter.
It may be that Malmud is being alarmist, but even at this stage it's a cautionary tale for any government agency that wants to leverage its records with the help of private enterprise (whether they are "not evil" or… not).