The interesting aspect of all this is one of the most important things I've heard from government publishers recently is making sure that data and documents are being perceived as authentic. For example the GPO includes a digital signature/seal on some of the documents they post to avoid potential copiers to do mischief by altering a copied document. Using technology to enforce what is often part of the rights of the copyright holder has even tracked into law (DCMA wikipedia note). We should take into account these non-commercial aspects of law and convention when considering this issue. And we should find out if governments have laws regulating the use of their data and documents, separate from copyright. Also some government data may include commercially copyrighted material (e.g. the Congressional Record with a news article) or a web page that used licensed stock photos.

I see embedding or separately, but clearly providing metadata that cites relevant laws into government data such that using government data does not create more hazards than it helps. Part of all of this is providing clearly cited data and clearly cited laws. If the data can be cited, then an external document can be referenced that tells how the data can be used and/or embedded Dublin Core that include the creator and rights metadata information such that both humans and software can ascertain the rules on copying the data.

Daniel Bennett

Steven Clift wrote:
The public domain requirement only applies to federal agencies and
(unfortunately) not the other 30,000 state and local governments in
the U.S..

In MN we did a big study on this with Government Information Access
Council in 1996. In summary the tourism agency wants to control their
photos, the parks want to sell books without someone copying their
work, and the Universities (which are justified in being exempt) were
generally freaked out by anyone even exploring this issue in state

Steven Clift

On 6/16/09, Jonathan Gray <> wrote:
I agree with you Kevin! The situation certainly seems to be more
complicated with public cultural heritage organisations, and with
anything else where material is being contributed by a third party -
such as scientific research.

I propose we add a general statement about making the legal status of
data (and content) explicit - and preferably explicitly open (as in where appropriate.


On Tue, Jun 16, 2009 at 2:57 PM, Novak, Kevin<> wrote:

It is a complex issue even for US government. Not so much for the general
agencies given Suzanne’s comments.

The Library of Congress, Smithsonian, NEH, National Gallery of Art,
Park Service and a few others have “collections” of material that have
digitized and made available on the web. Many resulting from agreements
trustees and custodians that have donated the materials to the
for some level of access. The challenge was and is ensuring that the
materials are rights protected and it is made clear that they do not fall
under the normal regulations. Negotiating these agreements is quite an
experience and always challenging when you don’t have a good policy basis
start with. Although this isn’t specifically a “data” issue under the
current and UK efforts, it is indeed a growing issue for agencies
dealing with culturally significant materials that aren’t necessarily
government produced and the desire to have the materials located on
government websites.


Kevin Novak

Vice President, Integrated Web Strategy and Technology

The American Institute of Architects

1735 New York Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20006

Voice:   202-626-7303

Cell:       202-731-0037

Twitter: @novakkevin

Fax:        202-639-7606




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From: Acar, Suzanne []
Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 8:44 AM
To: ''; ''
Cc: ''; '';
''; Novak, Kevin
Subject: Re:* memo

Very interesting, Daniel. Will take a closer look.
Also, thank you Jonathan for the clarifiacation on your statement.



From: Daniel Bennett <>
To: Jonathan Gray <>
Cc: Acar, Suzanne; <>;
Sent: Tue Jun 16 08:44:28 2009
Subject: Re:* memo

Awhile ago, when some of the bills were starting to be introduced in XML,
the Congress decided to add in some Dublin Core metadata so that issues
as rights would be made clear. See below.

And then there is the presumption that anyone or organization that
raw data in an open and without real applications is intending for the
to be either used in place or copied. This is like having an RSS newsfeed
and then claiming that the RSS newsfeed itself is copyrighted.

And then there is the issue of how data is used on the Internet with
engines essentially having a complete copy of almost everything internally
in order to allow for search.   Hmmmmmm.

<metadata xmlns:dc="">


<dc:title>111 HR 11 IH: Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of


<dc:publisher>U.S. House of Representatives</dc:publisher>




<dc:rights>Pursuant to Title 17 Section 105 of the United States Code,
file is not subject to copyright protection and is in the public




Jonathan Gray wrote:

On Tue, Jun 16, 2009 at 2:13 PM, Acar, Suzanne<>

US published a policy statement on the site.  Copyright statement
was not needed because government data once released for sharing is public

While this is true for US Federal government material - this is

unfortunately not so clear outside the US.

In my experience of looking at the situation with data across Europe,

many government sites do not explicitly state what can and can't be

re-used. The EU PSI Directive broadly encourages member states to make

material available for re-use - but this is still being implemented,

and some feel there is ambiguity about its scope and strength. Also

its always helpful to know where rights are held by third parties!


Jonathan Gray

Community Coordinator
The Open Knowledge Foundation