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In the news again

Wednesday, June 14th, 2006 at 7:15 am Written by:

Slightly more agitating with UK government data. All I did was send another rant in an email to someone who forwarded it to a reporter they knew.

Just to put this into the international context, there’s no copyright held on any “Intellectual Property” produced by the US government. This includes maps, manuals, the law, software. This is because it has already been paid for, and the result is that everyone benefits because they can build stuff on the data freely without compromise or hinderance.

In the UK the public sector has been polluted with the policy that they must raise revenue from any information they hold. They can’t just give it out; they have to charge for it. This even applies to statistical data that companies have a statutory obligation to supply to them. So, for example, every local authority has to notify the Ordinance Survey (the mapping body) whenever they change stuff like road layouts, or build a new housing estate. And then they have to buy the maps back. These maps come with licensing agreements (because they are being charged for) so you can’t just put them online conveniently.

The same applies to the law, which is not free either. OPSI is the Office of Public Sector Information. What we did was republish the Parliamentary data, but in a form that could be searched and browsed effectively. Unfortunately, the director got the wrong end of the stick and called us “entrepreneurs” and a good “private sector organization”.

See this Guardian article.

Julian Todd, an IT developer and co-creator of the site, adds: “As far as I know, we have had zero cooperation from the Opsi. It’s also bonkers … to call us ‘private sector’. We’re activists, without a business plan, and without respect for things like ‘parliamentary copyright’ if it can be perceived as an obstruction to democracy.”

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