Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Abolishing crown copyright in the UK

Michael Cross, Time to take the jewels from the crown?  The Guardian, September 6, 2007.  Excerpt:

What does the King James Bible have in common with an Ordnance Survey map? Both are subject to crown copyright, an ancient institution whose function is increasingly open to question. Ownership of almost all information produced at taxpayers' expense is one of the main legal weapons government has to control - or block - the re-use of public sector information in the knowledge economy.

By contrast, the US government does not claim copyright in its works. We argue that the UK government should follow the US in making all raw taxpayer-funded data available to the knowledge economy - except where that data compromises personal privacy or national security.

Some of our supporters say that a short cut to this state of affairs would be to abolish crown copyright itself. The idea is worth examining. Abolition was last floated in 1998, as part of a series of examinations in to what the government should do with its publishing arm, Her Majesty's Stationery Office. A green paper, Crown Copyright in the Information Age, proposed abolition as one of seven options for crown copyright.

In the public consultation that followed, abolition emerged as the most popular....The snag was that although abolition was the most popular response, it was also the least popular, receiving the largest number of "unacceptable" votes.

Faced with this polarised response, the government chose compromise....