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opensource.gov blocking access to libraries

[w:Open source intelligence] — not to be confused with [w:Open-source software] — is “a form of intelligence collection management that involves finding, selecting, and acquiring information from publicly available sources (my emphasis) and analyzing it to produce actionable intelligence.” Libraries in the [w:Federal Depository Library Program] have since the early 1940s received output from this process in the form of [w:Foreign Broadcast Information Service] (FBIS) materials *for free*. FBIS materials offered translation of foreign news sources, and via the Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) foreign language books, newspapers, journals, unclassified foreign documents and research reports. FBIS became the World News Connection in 1996, but it is a severely limited version (about half) of what’s available for internal government use.

The Federal of American Scientists has more on FBIS. Check out FBIS and JPRS materials in library collections near you!

All that background as context to a very troublesome turn of events as described by a recent post on the govdoc-l list (see the email below stripped of personal information). This important piece of the govt information universe is now only available via a very expensive commercial database (World News Connection), depriving the academic and larger research communities of full access to all that is done by FBIS at taxpayer expense. Please help us by contacting the Open Source Center (OSCinfo@rccb.osis.gov 202-338-6735, or 1-800-205-8615) and Robert Tapella (PublicPrinter@gpo.gov) at the Government Printing Office and request that the Open Source Center offer free access of opensource.gov to depository libraries. Thanks!

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Date: Wed, 24 Feb 2010 10:25:58 -0600
Subject: OpenSource.gov access

Has any library successfully gained access to OpenSource.gov?

For those who are unfamiliar with this resource, here is the what their web page says about them:

“OpenSource.gov provides timely and tailored translations, reporting and analysis on foreign policy and national security issues from the OpenSourceCenter and its partners. Featured are reports and translations from thousands of publications, television and radio stations, and Internet sources around the world. Also among the site’s holdings are a foreign video archive and fee-based commercial databases for which OSC has negotiated licenses. OSC’s reach extends from hard-to-find local publications and video to some of the most renowned thinkers on national security issues inside and outside the US Government. Accounts are available to US Government employees and contractors. Register today to see what OpenSource.gov has to offer.”

When we tried to register, they informed that we would have to justify why we needed access to the information and that we could get the information through World News Connection (via Dialog) OR, and I quote:

“In addition to the World News Connection, individuals may be able to access OSC products through university libraries, or the Federal Depository Library Program. Many Depository Libraries received CDs from the US Government Printing Office that contain select Open Source Center products.” [The CDs that they are referring to are the FBIS materials (PREX 7.10/3:)]

In our response, we informed them that WNC was an expensive database they we could not afford and that their information regarding OSC being distributed through the FDLP was sorely out of date since the CDs have NOT been distributed for over 5 years.

In their response, they say they are considering adding additional agencies such as the Federal Depository Library (FDL) as part of the approved list of agencies in OpenSource.gov., but such a review would take a considerable amount of time to do. (I took this to mean, when ‘ell freezes over.) Now here is the strange part–they think the FDLP is under the Dept of Interior and we could sign up that way–but our email address would need to have .gov or .mil in it. I am not sure, but I think they are actually referring to the Natural Resource Library in the U.S. Dept of Interior, which is a federal depository library, with which we are not associated, so this is NOT an option.

At this point I am stymied as to how we can have access to information that was formerly available FOR FREE through depository but is now only available through commercial ($$$) means. I know that GPO is aware that the CDs are no longer being distributed because of the creation of the OpenSource database. The only message I could find about this situation via the GOVDOC-L archives was from 2007 when they said “FDLP is still working with the agency OSC to get an agreement with how we are going to access their database.” It is now 3 years later and we still do not have access to this information.

In the meantime, we have a professor on campus doing research in Middle East affairs and would like to have access to more recent information than what we have in our library via microfiche and CDs. We can not afford WNC, so I don’t know what else we can do–except get access to OpenSource.gov. If anyone has been successful, I would be happy to hear how you did it.

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1 Comment

  1. B Klein says:

    Ahhhh, now this is a copyright issue.

    A little background. The production costs of JPRS Reports were borne by FBIS. Distribution was by subscription only because the cost to produce paper copies was very expensive. FBIS, as the Open Source Center does today, distributed reports to U.S. Government customers in accordance with its mission (serving the Public is not). GPO distributed to academic/research libraries through the Depository Library Program. NTIS distributed to anyone/everyone else.

    After the Berne Convention was signed in 1989 (in which each member extends its national copyright laws to protect works originating from other member nations), FBIS entered an agreement with NTIS to handle distribution to the general public and to secure copyright clearance as required. Paper/microfiche versions of FBIS and JPRS were discontinued by the end of 1996 and World News Connection was born. It includes about 65 percent of the material from the Open Source Center. NTIS makes every effort to increase this number by getting permission from and paying royalties to foreign publishers to make the material available online. NTIS receives no Government appropriation and must be self-sustaining, so production costs are borne by customers.

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