government information policy
James Boyle, William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law at Duke Law School and co-founder of Science Commons, has a new piece about the so-called "Fair Copyright in Research Works Act" (H.R.801) that lays out the arguments against this bill in chilling detail. He says that the bill "is so badly drafted that it would also wreak havoc on federal information policy more generally."
- Misunderestimating open science, By James Boyle, Financial Times, February 24 2009.
As a copyright professor, I have to say the bill is a nightmare. For reasons I won’t bore you with, its limitations on Federal agencies are completely unworkable. And as a scholar who writes about innovation, I have to say that it flies in the face of decades of research which shows the extraordinary multiplier effect of free access to information on the speed of scientific development. But speaking as a human being, I just have to wonder what could be going through a politician’s head at a moment like this.
...This bill would forbid us from building the World Wide Web for science, even for the research that taxpayers have funded.
Professor Boyle's most recent book is The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind (Yale University Press.) which you can download for free from http://thepublicdomain.org .
The new regimes in the White House and Capitol Hill continue their complicated policy waltz to seriously address the ongoing financial failures. Waiting for the turn on the dance card, advocates for free government information must surely grasp that the revelations and revolutions so hotly anticipated after last year's elections remain just that -- anticipations. We are still in tactical mode with our federal government (and state governments) when it comes to information technology and proactive and deliberative civic information policy. Yes -- agencies use social networking tools, cloud-computing and liberation of CRS reports by non-profit groups make more information easily accessible, and the use of twitter, blogs and otheer "push technologies" by elected officials deepen the connection betwen the elected and those who sent them into public service.
But is there a strategy? Has the Obama team, or the democratic leadership in Congress for that matter, revealed any long-term plans that take advantage of technology's democratic possibilities? Not really. If free government information advocates believe it is only a matter of time, the struggle for restoring confidence in the economy is necessarily taking precedence, then one would hope to see indications of the promised innovation and strategy. But that didn't happen. The stimulus legislation is mired in political horse trading, with much of the money supposed to address information infrastructure issues gutted from the Senate version. Other commentators reflect on just how much the the president's current efforts fall far short of the electoral promise in education or the treasury proposals to shore up the banking industry.
That is not to say Obama is little better than Bush. Not at all. What I am saying is that if any progressive or deliberative effort to strategically improve the country's vastly complicated civic information infrastructure through better institutions and use of technology is going to have to come from the grassroots.
So here again is one more reason to get involved at at the local, state and national level to shape and proposed the variety of proposals from government groups, library groups and citizen groups. In November the revolution won might be characterized in this way -- we are now able to talk about government as a POSITIVE force in our society. The revolution we wage now is to move beyond the rhetoric and put into something "shovel ready" into motion.
It won't happen any other way.
See you on day 22.