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Peter Suber on Open Access to Government Information

Peter Suber is a tireless advocate of open access. His Open Access News blog is the definitive source of news on the open access movement to scholarly communication. On April 22, Suber added this comment to the story about the Santorum bill that would drastically limit distribution of weather data by the government:

The argument used by Santorum –that government shouldn’t compete with private-sector companies– has been used against OA to research literature as well. If the private-sector companies are not repackaging and reselling publicly-funded resources, then this argument might be taken seriously. But when they charge customers for something already paid by the customers’ taxes, then the argument collapses. For example, if the private weather companies collected the same data at their own expense, then it might be wasteful duplication for the government to do so as well. But if the companies want to use publicly-funded data, then their request to be the sole distributors is simply the request to rip off the public. Governments have an obligation to prevent that from happening, not an obligation to step back and let it happen.
Santorum wants to end OA to publicly-funded weather data

Suber has posted more information about the bill and its supporters here.

We are concerned about GPO’s commitment to providing fully functional access to government information and worried that, GPO will only provide access to information without the ability to print or dowload documents. As we noted in our JAL paper,

There is no inconsistency between, on the one hand, the government and libraries providing fully functional digital government information for free to the public and, on the other hand, the private sector adding value to that government information and creating new information products.

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

1 Comment

  1. He said it better than I did. Why should taxpayers pay for information that is sold right back to them without further processing? Why do private companies think we should be taxed to provide them with raw materials. That’s not capitalism as I understand.

    By the way, when I first blogged this story, I forgot to tip the FGI hat to Greg Lawrence of Cornell University for noting this story on govdoc-l. Thanks to govdoc-l, most of us can be better informed on govdocs news than any one us chasing news sources round the ‘net. Thanks Greg!

    “And besides all that, what we need is a decentralized, distributed system of depositing electronic files to local libraries willing to host them.”

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