A recent note on the govdoc-l mailing list (Review of e-LCSH, Nathaniel Kraft, 5 Oct 2005, Discussion of Government Document Issues) provides a glimpse of the government restricting access to government information in the digital environment. The message is an invitation to review Library of Congress Subject Headings, 28th edition (“e-LCSH”). Kraft says that, “The Government Printing Office (GPO) and Library of Congress Cataloging Distribution Service (CDS) are investigating options for electronic dissemination of CDS cataloging publications to federal depository libraries” but notes that “the Library of Congress Subject Headings is a CDS sale product for which costs must be recovered.” The restrictions placed on use are explicit:
This electronic version is being made available to the Federal Depository Library Program with the condition that the files NOT be redistributed or made accessible outside the premises of participating FDLP libraries. If downloaded to a local server, the e-LCSH files must be placed on a location that is not accessible to Web crawlers or to users outside the premises of the FDLP library.
This is an excellent (though sad and ironic) example of the promise of digital information being crippled by contract for economic reasons. Where digital information holds the promise of being easily copied, re-distributed, and re-used, we see instead extreme restrictions being imposed on the information because “costs must be recovered”. The restrictions bear repeating so that we can imagine the future of a world without digital deposit or a world with DRM locked down deposit or a world where use is limited not by copyright, but by contract:
- Files may “NOT be redistributed”
- Access only on “the premises”
- Digital access hidden from web crawlers
- Digital access prohibited by users outside the library
The true “Luddites” are those that impose restrictions on access to government information rather than envisioning and enabling the possibilities created by digitization of information.
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