Friday, December 5, 2008

Copyright on Government Works

One interesting development in recent days is that President-elect Obama has now covered the site under a creative commons license. This is interesting because government works are generally immune from copyright laws. My email is frequently bombarded with offers to buy census data on cd, data that is freely available but is simply repackaged by a private company and resold without any royalty payments.

In fact, I wasn't even aware that you could copyright government works, if you wanted to. I had several publications as a Senate staffer and any of those articles could be freely republished by anyone. It might not be ethical, but it would be legal.

A good friend, who happens to be a lawyer, was puzzled by this as well. I could understand if the site was still, but now that he is under the government umbrella with .gov, it seems the site should be in the public domain. Lawrence Lessig has more, and here is the creative commons page with some info.

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