UK Gov't Frees Up Gov't Works Under 'Open' License

from the good-to-see dept

While about the only good change to copyright law we've seen in the past century or so was the US's decision to make all federally created documents go straight into the public domain, rather than be covered by copyright, many other governments have not been nearly so enlightened. It's common -- especially in countries formerly in the British empire -- to have the concept of "crown copyright," covering government documents. Of course, this makes very little sense, since the purpose of copyright is supposed to be to offer incentives for the creation of the content, and most of the content governments produce will have other, external, incentives.

So it's nice to see (via Glyn Moody) that the UK government has taken a big step forward in declaring that government information should be released under an "open" license. In this case, it's set up the UK Open Government Licence (OGL), which isn't quite the same as the public domain, but it does seem pretty open. They're pretty clear when it comes to government data:
It is UK Government policy to support the re-use of its information by making it available for re-use under simple licensing terms. As part of this policy most public sector information should be made available for re-use at the marginal cost of production. In effect, this means at zero cost for the re-user, especially where the information is published online. This maximises the social and economic value of the information. The Open Government Licence should be the default licence adopted where information is made available for re-use free of charge.
It's nice to see them recognize that free and open data maximizes both social and economic value for the information. That's been shown over and over again -- particularly when it comes to government data (pdf) that freeing it up leads to greater economic value across the board. Hopefully other governments will start to move away from economically devaluing positions, such as by focusing on concepts like "crown copyright."


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 1:08am

    "...the concept of "crown copyright," covering government documents..."
    One of the major problems is that it covers stuff first published by a government not just government documents.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Fentex, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 1:29am

    You keep saying the purpose of copyright is to encourage creation when talking about non-U.S jurisdictions.

    It's only explicitly so of the U.S due to language in the U.S Constitution and is not neccesarily true of other jurisdictions.

    In the case of once British Empire nations you'll have to go look at the copyright legislation itself to see if any purpose is mentioned.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 2:18am

    Re:

    It's only explicitly so of the U.S due to language in the U.S Constitution and is not neccesarily true of other jurisdictions.

    US copyright law is descended from UK law. The wording in the US constitution reflects political and legal arguments that were current in the UK at the time. Therefore it is fair to say that UK is based on the same principles as US law (in fact historically the sequence is the other way around).

    This is pretty much clear from the content of this site.

    The same would not however apply to continental europe.

    Crown copyright is a historical hangover from before the 1709 statute of Anne (at one time it was the ONLY copyright) and should really have been abolished at that time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Oct 5th, 2010 @ 2:19am

    Re: Re:

    The above comment is mine - didn't realise I wasn't signed in.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    sewa mobil, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 3:21am

    UK Gov't Frees Up Gov't Works Under 'Open' License

    Nice article, thanks for sharing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Pete Austin, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 3:37am

    Has same limitations as the Freedom of Information Acts

    I was wondering about repurposing the huge amount of data from CCTV cameras, as a kind of video "Street View", but unfortunately that is excluded:

    "All unpublished information which is not accessible under the Freedom of Information Acts or the Environmental Information Regulations, such as personal data or confidential information, will be exempt from the UKGLF and the Open Government Licence"
    http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/uk-government-licensing-framework.pdf

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 5:32am

    In other words, they are covering their ass on the fair-use argument. Simply declare something as being for the public good and you can use it all you want. Common citizens should be able to do exactly what the government does. If they have a public pool of content then everyone should have access to it and be able to use it on-demand.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    peter, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 5:55am

    just a bit of joined up government please

    I had to register a death and read that the Government claims copyright on the Death Certificate.

    Of course in order to tell anyone (Bank etc), they need sight of the Death Certificate, and the law requires they can prove they have seen the death certificate by.......taking a copy!

    Wonder if all these Banks realise that by complying with the law they are breaking the law?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    vivaelamor (profile), Oct 5th, 2010 @ 6:20am

    Re:

    "You keep saying the purpose of copyright is to encourage creation when talking about non-U.S jurisdictions.

    It's only explicitly so of the U.S due to language in the U.S Constitution and is not neccesarily true of other jurisdictions.

    In the case of once British Empire nations you'll have to go look at the copyright legislation itself to see if any purpose is mentioned."


    Read the full title of the Statute of Anne, which is widely regarded as the start of modern copyright:

    "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies, During the Times therein mentioned, 1710, 8 Anne, c.19"

    That is a British statute and you don't have to read past the title to see the premise of 'encouragement of learning'. It was mainly France that pushed the alternative premise of author's rights. I don't think anyone else really took them seriously until the Berne Convention. To say that the economic premise originated from the US Constitution is wrong and shows a lack of care for anything that happened outside the US, even when it is the basis for US history.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    vivaelamor (profile), Oct 5th, 2010 @ 6:24am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "The above comment is mine - didn't realise I wasn't signed in."

    Your snowflake will be registered on the database of dissenters from lobbyist doctrine.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Oct 5th, 2010 @ 6:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Put me on that list also ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 7:42am

    "for re-use under simple licensing terms"

    That's licensed, NOT free. Without getting into all *that* again, the "crown" clearly retains control, even though it's allowing more public use of it. Why it's allowing that is a question, but for sure it ain't out of largesse.

    The US-UK relation merely confuses matters. England is almost unfathomable to Americans because it *looks* and sounds so much alike. But in fact, the majority of British inhabitants are still serfs who don't have even a written Bill of RIghts. They must ask hereditary tyrants for permission to form a gov't. That gov't serves only at pleasure of the tyrant, and when it gets out of line, can be dispersed with a word. -- That such power is rarely exercised seems to confuse most observers. Nonetheless, it's true power.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    TtfnJohn (profile), Oct 5th, 2010 @ 8:33am

    Re:

    Ahhh, we, as the public, paid for the damned stuff and better well be able to use it as we see fit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    TtfnJohn (profile), Oct 5th, 2010 @ 8:44am

    Re: "for re-use under simple licensing terms"

    Would you please try to understand what a constitutional monarchy is? And how Parliament is structured and why?

    As for asking to form a government the reality is that those wishing to form the government must demonstrate they have the support of the majority in the House of Commons or can get it. The monarch doesn't enter into that one little bit.

    You do, I take it, understand that that the monarch can't have so much as a dime if the Commons says it can't. As in, it's the Commons that controls the purse strings.

    And yes, the monarch can dissolve Parliament but only to follow that with an election.

    As for a Bill of Rights in England that's taken care of by a body of law going back to Runnymede and beyond which as removed most direct powers of the monarch.

    It's far more likely that a republic will fall into actual tyranny, if history is guide at all, than the English constitutional monarchy will.

    Idiot.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    tracker1 (profile), Oct 5th, 2010 @ 9:31am

    Re: just a bit of joined up government please

    Generally, you have to buy multiple "original" copies from the government... Which is pretty stupid imho, but that is generally the case. Given that you are handing over copies paid for from the source, they are authorized. At least that's how it is in my State.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Oct 5th, 2010 @ 11:14am

    Re: "for re-use under simple licensing terms"

    "They must ask hereditary tyrants for permission to form a gov't. That gov't serves only at pleasure of the tyrant, and when it gets out of line, can be dispersed with a word. -- That such power is rarely exercised seems to confuse most observers. Nonetheless, it's true power."

    However the last one who tried to exercise that power had his head chopped off...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    lawgeeknz (profile), Oct 5th, 2010 @ 4:17pm

    Other countries

    "Hopefully other governments will start to move away from economically devaluing positions, such as by focusing on concepts like "crown copyright." " Just noticed this in Australia - http://www.itnews.com.au/News/234326,developers-retain-right-to-ip-in-government-solutions.aspx a nd here in NZ, we have just adopted a comprehensive policy founded on CC - http://www.e.govt.nz/policy/nzgoal

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 8:36pm

    Re: Re: "for re-use under simple licensing terms"

    Hmm. Well, if you come back here, please show me this "constitution", and where it states all people are equal. You know very well that there are in fact two classes in the UK, one euphemized as "commoners".

    And I suppose you know that large areas of England are held directly by "royalty"; I forget the figure, but something like a third of the island. Besides that, they own a large portion of the economy through City of London. I assure you that "the monarch" has income beyond what "the Commons" allows. -- Being immersed in it, you completely miss the significance that giving *a* dime to a monarch is total surrender. No one deserves income merely by heredity.

    As you've *always* been under a tyranny; don't see your point there. Unfortunately, you seem to love your tyrants.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Fentex, Oct 22nd, 2010 @ 8:59pm

    Re: Re:

    The wording in the US constitution reflects political and legal arguments that were current in the UK at the time. Therefore it is fair to say that UK is based on the same principles as US law

    I don't follow that logic, it would seem to imply that no U.S law differs from British when clearly much does.

    Especially those elements in the U.S Constitution which explicitly (unlike much of Britsh implicit constitution) express a rationale.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This