Does It Make Sense For Governments To Make Their Content Creative Commons... Or Fully Public Domain?

from the they're-not-the-same dept

One of the few good things that the US government has done on the copyright front was the decision decades back that nearly all works produced by the federal government automatically go into the public domain, and don't receive any form of copyright protection. This makes perfect sense, considering the whole point of copyright law is supposed to be to encourage learning and progress, and to create incentives for that to occur. When it comes to government information, there is no such incentive necessary. I still find it odd that other countries haven't followed suit. Many countries -- especially British Commonwealth countries -- have a special form of copyright for government documents, called Crown Copyright. At times, such Crown Copyright rules have been used to censor dissent.

So, it's certainly nice to hear, via James Firth, that the UK Parliament may consider moving away from relying on Crown Copyright on the works it produces. Apparently, at a discussion concerning the "digital agenda" and making information more open, the Director of Programmes and Development at Parliamentary ICT, Richard Ware, suggested that copyright didn't make sense for Parliamentary content:
"We're not looking to make any kind of return from this content. For us it's more important to open up the information and see what people can do with it."
Now, that's sort of a vague statement, but it at least indicates the direction that they're looking in. What struck me as interesting is that Firth took this statement to mean that Parliament is looking at using Creative Commons for its content. To be honest, it's not clear to me from the coverage of what Ware said that he was, in fact, discussing Creative Commons or some alternative solution. Firth has a nice discussion about the different CC licenses and which might make most sense for Parliament, but I wonder why it doesn't just make sense to go fully public domain on such material.

As much as I like and respect Creative Commons, it does seem that, all too often, people think either that Creative Commons is the public domain or that it's a replacement for the public domain. While CC has introduced a public domain license, I think it's important not to confuse the two. And, while CC licenses certainly make sense for different creators in different arenas, I would worry that for government-produced works, it would just create confusion, as many people seem to assume all CC licenses say things that many do not.

So I'm curious: is there any reason for a government to make its works covered by Creative Commons? Or should they just go public domain? Or, since we want all bases covered, can someone explain why governments should retain some form of copyright on their works?
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: creative commons, parliament, public domain, uk


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    Dave Parker (profile), 17 Jun 2011 @ 8:00am

    How do you put stuff in the public domain?

    If everything is automatically in copyright as soon as it is produced, how do you make it public domain?

    That's what CC0 does - as copyright owner you say do what you like with this.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.