The State of Georgia has sued Malamud for providing the Official Code of Georgia Annotated on his website, describing it as "a form of 'terrorism.'" Georgia sells a version of the Code through LexisNexis.
Malamud set up the nonprofit Public.Resource.Org, headquartered in Sebastopol, California, to work for the publication of public domain information from local, state, and federal government agencies. Among his achievements have been digitizing 588 government films for the Internet Archive and YouTube, publishing a 5 million page crawl of the Government Printing Office, and persuading the state of Oregon to not assert copyright over its legislative statutes. He has also been active in challenging the state of California's copyright claims on state laws by publishing copies of the criminal, building, and plumbing codes online.
He has also challenged the information management policy of Smithsonian Networks, convinced C-SPAN to liberalize its video archive access policy, and begun publishing court decisions. In 2009 he proposed himself, through the "Yes We Scan" campaign, as the Public Printer of the U.S., the head of the Government Printing Office. He is leading an effort, under the banner of Law.gov, to bring online all primary legal materials (including legal codes and case law) for open public access.
An early Internet pioneer, he is the author of many early books about networking such as Analyzing Novell Networks and DEC Networks and Architectures.
In 2008, Malamud announced that the federal court archive Public Access to Electronic Court Records was charging 8 cents per page for information he contended should be free, because federal documents are not covered by copyright. The fees were "plowed back to the courts to finance technology, but the system [ran] a budget surplus of some $150 million, according to court reports," reported The New York Times. PACER used technology that was "designed in the bygone days of screechy telephone modems ... put[ting] the nation's legal system behind a wall of cash and kludge." Malamud appealed to fellow activists, urging them to visit one of 17 libraries conducting a free trial of the PACER system, download court documents, and send them to him for public distribution.
After reading Malamud's call for action, Aaron Swartz used a Perl computer script running on Amazon cloud servers to download the documents, using credentials belonging to a Sacramento library. From September 4 to 20, 2008, it accessed documents and uploaded them to a cloud computing service. He released the documents to Malamud's organization.
The Huffington Post characterized his actions this way: "Swartz downloaded public court documents from the PACER system in an effort to make them available outside of the expensive service. The move drew the attention of the FBI, which ultimately decided not to press charges as the documents, were, in fact, public."
On September 29, 2008, the GPO suspended the free trial, "pending an evaluation" of the program. Swartz's actions were subsequently investigated by the FBI. The case was closed after two months with no charges filed. Swartz learned the details of the investigation as a result of filing a FOIA request with the FBI and described their response as the "usual mess of confusions that shows the FBI's lack of sense of humor." PACER still charges per page, but customers using Firefox or Google Chrome have the option of saving the documents for free public access with a plug-in called RECAP.
At a 2013 memorial for Swartz, Malamud recalled their work with PACER. They brought millions of U.S. District Court records out from behind PACER's "pay wall", he said, and found them full of privacy violations, including medical records and the names of minor children and confidential informants.
We sent our results to the Chief Judges of 31 District Courts ... They redacted those documents and they yelled at the lawyers that filed them ... The Judicial Conference changed their privacy rules. ... [To] the bureaucrats who ran the Administrative Office of the United States Courts ... we were thieves that took $1.6 million of their property. So they called the FBI ... [The FBI] found nothing wrong ...
Malamud penned a more detailed account of his collaboration with Swartz on the Pacer project in an essay that appears on his website.
Writing in Ars Technica, Timothy Lee, who later made use of the documents obtained by Swartz as a co-creator of RECAP, offered some insight into discrepancies in reporting on just how much data Swartz had downloaded: "In a back-of-the-envelope calculation a few days before the offsite crawl was shut down, Swartz guessed he got around 25 percent of the documents in PACER. The New York Times similarly reported Swartz had downloaded "an estimated 20 percent of the entire database". Based on the facts that Swartz downloaded 2.7 million documents while PACER, at the time, contained 500 million, Lee concluded that Swartz downloaded less than one percent of the database.
Carl Malamud is currently involved in several lawsuits through his organization Public.Resource.Org.
In 2009 Malamud announced his candidacy to become Public Printer of the United States and asked for the public to endorse him for the position. The role is filled by an appointment by the president and it is unusual that it would be the subject of a public campaign. Malamud sought the position on a platform of promising to "make all primary legal materials produced by the U.S. readily available" and to include "principles of bulk data distribution in legislation."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation said that his agenda was "ambitious and impressive" and that if President Barack Obama granted him the position that it would be an excellent step toward fulfilling his promise to introduce "an unprecedented level of openness in Government."
In 2009 Malamud received the EFF Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation for being a public domain advocate.