Can't Use The Name Of The Library Of Congress When Doing What It Should Be Doing
from the what's-a-little-competition? dept
We've been impressed with Jim Harper's Washington Watch site since it launched last year. The site helps track how much various legislation proposals would cost people. Recently, Harper added a really useful feature: a wiki attached to each piece of proposed legislation where people could express reasons for and against each piece of legislation. It's a good idea, and shows how participatory democracy can work better by actually encouraging some amount of actual participation (shocking idea, there). Unfortunately, not everyone was thrilled with the idea. In announcing it, Harper pointed out that Washington Watch could be a better way to follow and understand new legislative proposals than the Library of Congress' own THOMAS system. Apparently, the Library of Congress took offense at this and demanded that Harper stop using its name. Harper is no stranger to intellectual property issues, since his day job is Director of Information Policy at the Cato Institute (where he organized last year's copyright conference at which I spoke). He told the Library of Congress that there seemed no good reason to stop using the name, at which point the Library of Congress trotted out Library of Congress Regulation 112 which says: "the use of the Library's name, explicitly or implicitly to endorse a product or service, or materials in any publication is prohibited, except as provided for in this Regulation." Of course, Harper isn't using the Library of Congress' name to endorse anything. He's using it to show why the Library of Congress isn't doing everything it should be doing. In the meantime, this whole dustup is on Slashdot, meaning that the Library of Congress' attempt to keep Washington Watch quiet just got a lot more attention -- so that everyone can compare the two sites for themselves. If the Library of Congress had just ignored the issue, we'd bet that Washington Watch would have a lot less traffic today. Sounds like the Library of Congress has just discovered the Streisand Effect. Maybe they should focus on improving their system, rather than worrying that someone else is using their name and encouraging them to do a better job.