Copyrighting public information

There is a vast gulf in the way the US and UK view public information. In the US, the overriding belief is that any information collected or created with public money is copyright-free.

The view in the UK is just the opposite with a variety of copyright mechanisms (most notably Crown Copyright) used to restrict the public’s use of public information and to charge us for the privilege of seeing the fruits of labour we have, in most cases, already paid for through taxes.

Crown Copyright should be abolished. There can be no real freedom of information as long as the government controls how we use and re-use public information.

US- Fla ct decision on copyrighting public records
BNA’s Internet Law News (ILN) – 12/13/04

A Florida appeals court has ruled that an online real estate company can continue to use property appraiser records for profit without paying royalties to the government that created them. The 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled Dec. 1 that the Collier County property appraiser cannot demand royalties from those seeking access to public records.
Coverage at
Decision at,%202004/2D03-3346.pdf


2 Responses to “Copyrighting public information”

  1. Steve says:

    The taxpayer pays for the info, but also gets a return when others buy that info. Furthermore, UK Gov. is often involved in competitive research with organisations in other countries. Why should we give away our competitive edge for free? My dept. is open about the research it does, the results it generates and the code it uses, but it’s not going to let other people gain sole credit while using our code.

  2. Vaci says:

    As the government is the monopoly provider of the fruits of this research, then whether it benefits the taxpayer and the country as a whole is a moot question. Maybe greater benefit would come to the public from businesses who could develop useful products on the back of that information? Currently, any innovations are stifled by the imposition of arbitrary costs and conditions. There is a thriving, tax-paying industry republishing, researching and adding value to US government data, which is available without restriction. The Internet, which evolved from Department of Defence research, is an obvious example!

    The idea that restricting access to information provides some kind of competitive advantage is bogus. In the long term, it merely hinders progress for everybody.

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