Obama, transition and public domain


Change.gov, Obama’s transition team, adopts Creative Commons “By Attribution” License. Of course it’s good news when people free their content in this way. But it’s also worth pointing out that open content is not a brand new thing in US government.  US federal government information is public domain by default, so anything produced by someone in their work as a federal government official, on Change.gov or elsewhere, is completely unrestricted in how it’s used.

This law is a fantastic thing – in terms of open knowledge, the US federal government has been by far the most progressive government worldwide, and have produced what must be the largest body of open knowledge by far. (As an Australian, praising the US government is not something I do as a habit, and I don’t want to get into a general discussion on its general merits or otherwise.)

I don’t know that this applies to Change.gov, but it will certainly apply to their work once they’re sworn into office. This choice is a great one in two ways, though:

Firstly, it raises the profile of open licenses (as opposed to imprecise statements limiting reuse to educational and non-commercial purposes) and especially the use of open licenses by governments. Almost all governments around the world, other than the US federal government, claim a copyright on their work (at least as far as I’ve seen). This is not appropriate for work created with public funds. It is a government’s role to serve the people, and anything created with the people’s money should be free to use by the people. (I’m not going to get into politics, but I think this should be uncontroversial.)

Secondly, it’s the right thing to do, to ensure that all comments and contributions are open and require attribution. It’s one thing for government work to be public domain, but I see no downside in requiring a work by non-government individuals to be attributed

So, which other governments are moving in this direction? Local, state, or national, from any and all countries – let’s see a movement towards openness. Please, if you know a government that uses an open license or releases their work as public domain, tell us in the comments and provide a link – or even better, add it straight to our wiki page on Governments and knowledge sharing.

Relevant Appropedia wiki pages:Relevant Appropedia wiki pages:

  • Public Domain Search – an Appropedia project to make public domain content more accessible. (Currently on hold, but if you have skills with the details of custom search engines, please get involved!)

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