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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

8. Ownership – Discussion Questions

The Government Printing Office (GPO) document, Digital Distribution to Depository Libraries: Exploring the Issues (9/6/2006) asks these questions about Ownership:

7. Ownership
a. Do digital publications distributed under the aegis of the FDLP remain the property of the U.S. Government, including back up and other copies maintained on library systems?
b. What are the implications of an agency requesting the recall of an FDLP electronic title?
c. If an agency does not want older issues to remain available on-line, how should this be handled?


FGI Responses

Q: a. Do digital publications distributed under the aegis of the FDLP remain the property of the U.S. Government, including back up and other copies maintained on library systems?

44 USC 1909 makes it clear that depository libraries are custodians of material received through the depository program. This would be just as true of digital files as it would be for print or microform materials. Any publications acquired through the FDLP and any library-controlled backup copies remain Federal property.

Q: b. What are the implications of an agency requesting the recall of an FDLP electronic title?

We believe that the implications of an agency requesting the recall of an FDLP electronic title are identical to that of requesting recall of a tangible title due to the ease of digitizing tangible titles. While an agency can withdraw a tangible title from FDLP collections, all it takes is one member of the public with a digital camera or copier-scanner to make a digital copy for the world to see.

The main implication of withdrawals in an electronic environment is that in an environment of digital distribution, an agency would have to go through a public process, which seems appropriate for material that has already been released to the public domain. In a “link to federal servers system”, documents could be quietly removed for any reason at all regardless of formal policy. And the individuals and groups who care about such materials might well have made digital copies anyway (i.e. Federation of American Scientists)

Q: c. If an agency does not want older issues to remain available on-line, how should this be handled?

They should go through the process outlined in ID 72: Withdrawal of Federal Information Products from GPO’s Information Dissemination (ID) Programs. Agencies can’t simply dictate which tangible versions/issues of a given title stay on depository shelves and they should not gain such a privilege in electronic materials.

They do have a right to expect that libraries will indicate superseded materials as such in their catalogs.

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