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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.

Licensing at State Agency Databases Project

This week’s State Agency Databases Project subject highlight is Licensing, featuring 47 states that project volunteers know to have publicly searchable databases in this subject area. Three examples from this compilation are:



Liquor License Queries – This page lets you choose from numerous queries: License No., Business Name, Location Address, Pending Applications and Interim Permits, Recently Issued Licenses, Expired Licenses, Closed Licenses, Suspended Licenses, Inactive Licenses, Denied Licenses, Special Events. Database is also available as a download.



Sales Tax License Revocations Search – Search for a business with a revoked sales tax license by county, city, business name, or Missouri Tax ID Number (Sales Tax License Number).



Wyoming Insurance Company Search – Wyoming Department of Insurance – Enter agent’s name or adjuster’s name in the individual agent search box, enter the agency’s name in the agency search box or enter the company name in the insurance company search box to obtain information about the entity.

For more, see http://godort.libguides.com/licensingdbs. If you know of state agency produced databases in this area, either comment here or use the “Email me” link on the guide to report a database, which will be forwarded to the appropriate project volunteer.

UK: National Archives Releases Public API & Government Licensing Policy Extended Making More Public Sector Information Availa

Via INFOdocket:

From Computer Weekly:

The National Archives [UK] has made details of 11m records available through an application interface it published today as part of an ongoing programme to get more official records online.

The API allows anyone to search for and retrieve the metadata that describes records in the archive in XML format. The data can then be used without restriction or charge. But the archive, which is simultaneously an executive agency of the Department of Justice and a government department in its own right, continues to charge £3.50 per document to retrieve actual records online.

More Info on INFOdocket or Direct from Computer Weekly

Also from the National Archives (UK)

“UK government licensing policy extended to make more public sector information available”

When Google and others impose licenses on government documents and other works in the public domain

Access to Old Information, by Steven M. Bellovin, SMBlog, 8 March 2009.

Bellovin notes that Google “requests” you use public domain books you download from books.google.com for “personal, non-commercial purposes.” This isn’t a new issue, of course, and Bellovin points out that Congressional Information Services, Inc. claims that its microfilms of a U.S. government documents cannot be reused “except for individual research.”

He continues:

What we are seeing is the use of contract law to obtain rights not granted by copyright. If we are not careful, we will see public information locked up. Worse yet, digital records can be protected by so-called Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology, making them inaccessible except on terms dictated by the physical record’s owner.

…We need to ask about the fate of public documents (such as government records) and about the role of libraries…. [I]f a private company is going to be the designated publisher, it should not control how the documents are used.

He also calls on libraries to do their part to keep this from happening, for “By agreeing to stringent restrictions, above and beyond what would be permitted under the Fair Use doctrine of copyright law, [libraries] undermine their own goals.

I would add that, in the digital age, one way we can ensure free access to government information is by making the raw, complete digital information universally freely and accessible. Private sector companies can then add value and put their restrictions on their added value services, not on the content.