Free Our Data: the blog

A Guardian Technology campaign for free public access to data about the UK and its citizens

Get rid of Crown Copyright: Times article from September 2005

We’ve just come across the interesting (Your Right To Know) blog/site, which is principally about Freedom of Information, but also has an interesting article on it reprinted from the Times’s Law section, called “Why we must cut the costly Crown Copyright” from September 2005. (We hadn’t seen it when we came up with the campaign. But great minds…)

This points to a number of the same studies as our original piece: that nobody can quite tell you who owns the copyright in an address. Or how about this:

“While it may seem sensible to charge for these resources, a more detailed analysis shows quite the opposite. More than 50 per cent of national UK mapping data is actually sold back to government, which means the taxpayer effectively pays not once but dozens, if not hundreds, of times (through fees and/or council tax).”

Yes, we’ve heard that one too. It’s still true.

Lawyers, too, are hit hard, as they pay substantial fees to access consolidated law or governmental reports. In the US, this is information that would be provided free or at little cost; federal law states any text produced by government is free from copyright and passes immediately into the public domain. Unoriginal compilations of fact — public or private — may not be owned, says Professor James Boyle of Duke Law School, who has studied copyright regimes in the US and Europe. Confounding expectation, Boyle says the US Government exercises “information socialism”, whereas the UK and Europe are out for maximum short-term profit at the expense of social welfare and long-term economic growth; even the EU Directive on the re-use of Public Sector Information, enacted in July 2005, presumes that government data be sold for profit.

A very interesting article, with some interesting links, and a comment from the CIE that seems worth reading too.

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