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Presidential transition web site… copyrighted!

Change.Gov, the “Office of the President Elect,” is a .gov site, but it says “Content copyright © 2008 by Obama-Biden Transition Project, a 501c(4) organization. All rights reserved.”

So, is this an official government web site? Will it be captured by the transition crawl?

Steven Clift has a few comments here.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


  1. Thanks for the update Bonnie. I have resubmitted the letter below to their site and urge others to do the same. by the way, there was a thread about change.gov over on boinboing.net and there was this interesting comment stating that change.gov was set up by General Services Administration (GSA) as part of their charge in support of the President-elect.

    Hi again,

    I originally submitted a question about the copyright statement on your Website, asking you to change the statement to one of public domain. I notice now that you’ve changed the statement since 11/7, but that it is still listed as under copyright; and to add to the confusion, now there is not even a statement as to *who* has copyrighted the site.

    I strongly urge you to change the copyright statement on your site to clearly state that all information on the site is in the public domain. According to Copyright Law 17 U.S.C. § 105, “Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government.” Since the site is in the .gov domain, it should rightfully be listed as being in the public domain.

    Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


    James Jacobs
    Government Information Librarian
    Stanford University

  2. Now we’ve done it! We’ve caused a change…and apparently confusion and uncertainty.

    There’s a new notice which is even less enlightened than the first: “Content copyright © 2008. All rights reserved.” By whom, they no longer say.

  3. Hi Gus. As noted below, the GSA is charged with the smooth transition from one president to another. One of their main charges is to provide everything from temporary office space, parking, and furniture to IT equipment and support for the transition team. So it’s clear that change.gov fits within that charge. GSA is also supposed to work in collaboration with NARA to inform the new administration about information policy; however, someone neglected to tell the admins running change.gov that the site is supposed to be in the public domain.

  4. I’ve just been wondering how they were accepted for a .gov address to begin with? I’m noticing on Wikipedia (not the best source, perhaps) that “elected bodies of officials” can apply, at least at lower levels of government — is that perhaps the justification for them being given a .gov domain?

  5. I believe I read on Michelle Malkin’s site that change.gov was started by a fundraising arm of the Obama campaign and is actively collecting names and emails for future fundraising efforts. Not exactly appropriate on a .gov site either. I myself blogged about change.gov before the agenda material was removed and copied and pasted alot of material despite the copyright warning due to my belief, as well, that .gov sites are in the public domain. Glad I did since they appear to be hiding something now.

  6. …they still need to fix it. 😉
    And State .gov websites are also in the public domain, just like .gov federal websites.

  7. I’m a web designer and have set up dozens of sites. Every time you just put the copyright notice at the bottom. This is probably just an oversight.

    That being said, the transition team is not technically a part of the federal government. Thus I don’t think they are under any obligation to make their content public domain. Their ownership of a .gov domain does not necessarily mean it is a federal site; there are many .gov sites that are not federal (all state-run websites come to mind).

  8. Daniel pointed this info out to me and I should have clarified that state .gov websites can be under copyright because, as Daniel says:

    Copyright law allows states to assert copyright to everything except statutes, regulations and court decisions. This and more is spelled out in a document from Federal Judicial Center we have posted at FGI at http://freegovinfo.info/copyright.

    Good to know! State gov docs and state gov websites are tricky when it comes to determine what is copyrighted or not…for me anyway. I find it less clear cut than federal gov info.

    Can’t we just make all government funded information in the public domain? Let me wave my magic wand and make it so. 😉

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