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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.

Canada set to privatize public documents, papers, and data for 10 years

We have seen this happen before in the U.S. (See, for example: The NARA/TGN contract as a bad precedent and GAO *did* sell exclusive access to legislative history to Thomson West) and Canada (Help save the Library & Archives Canada), but this seems like a particularly bad, unjustifiable example of privatization of public information.

  • Library and Archives Canada private deal would take millions of documents out of public domain, By Chris Cobb, OTTAWA CITIZEN (June 12, 2013).

    Library and Archives Canada has entered a hush-hush deal with a private high-tech consortium that would hand over exclusive rights to publicly owned books and artifacts for 10 years.

    …LAC is partnering with Canadiana.org in what is being billed as The Heritage Project — digitizing 40 million images from more than 800 collections of publicly-held LAC material, much bought by Library and Archives over the years with taxpayers’ money.

    …Under the agreement, digital images will begin rolling back into the free public domain — known as “open access” — as the 10-year exclusive rights expire.

Hat tip to InfoDocket!

Help save the Library & Archives Canada

We’ve been tracking this story since this spring when the Depository Services Program of Canada (DSP) announced that, by 2014, it would, “no longer be producing, printing, or warehousing hard copies of publications.” Well it’s much more than no longer printing govt publications. As BoingBoing notes:

Canada’s national archives are in trouble: they’ve undergone a $9.6M cut, with more to come. The collections are being sold off to private collectors, many outside of the country. Now the Documentary Organization of Canada has weighed in: “Lisa Fitzgibbons, Executive Director of the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC), succinctly states a case for continuance of sustainable funding of Library and Archives Canada.”

Please go to Save Library & Archives Canada (hosted by the Canadian Association of University Teachers!) to learn more about the issues and take action to save the Library & Archives.

Including Full Text of Commercial Standards in the Federal Register, incorporation by reference

What happens when federal agencies rely upon standards developed by standard-setting bodies and communities of practice and incorporate those standards into federal rules? In many cases agencies refer to the standards but do not include the full text of the standards in Federal Register or the Code of Federal Regulations. As a result, those interested in commenting on a particular regulation may not have access to the relevant standard, particularly if it is copyrighted or only accessible for a fee.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Association of Research Libraries, and OpenTheGovernment.org have sent comments to the Administrative Conference of the US recommending that “all material incorporated by reference — regardless of the stage in the regulatory process, the subject matter of the regulation, or the identity of the regulated entity — should be made freely available, with no purported copyright restrictions and downloadable on a government agency’s website.”

Public.Resource.Org submitted comments to the Office of Management and Budget on making standards that are incorporated by reference into federal regulations widely available to the public without charge. Public.Resource.Org also said that such standards should “be deemed in the public domain rather than subject to copyright restrictions.”

  • OpenTheGov and ARL Join EFF in Urging Government to Make all Parts of the Law Easily Available to Everyone (10/24/2011).

    “copyrighted materials, once incorporated into law, should be available for free.” The principles of transparency and accessibility to the law should animate agency decisions in this arena and materials incorporated by reference should be made freely available, online and off, at all times…

  • Revised Draft Recommendations of the Administrative Conference of the US on “Incorporation by Reference in Federal Regulations” ACUS.gov (October 2011)
  • Comments on “Incorporation by Reference in Federal Regulations” (October 21, 2011) To Committee on Administration and Management Administrative Conference of the United States Committee of Administration and Management from Corynne McSherry & Mark Rumold Electronic Frontier Foundation, Prue Adler, Association of Research Libraries, and Patrice McDermott, OpenTheGovernment.org

    We urge ACUS to reject any suggestion that access to the law may be limited where the regulation in question happens to incorporate copyrighted materials. All material incorporated by reference – regardless of the stage in the regulatory process, the subject matter of the regulation, or the identity of the regulated entity – should be made freely available and downloadable on a government agency’s website.

  • Incorporation by Reference, A Proposed Rule by the Federal Register Office on 02/27/2012

    On February 13, 2012, the Office of the Federal Register (OFR or we) received a petition to amend our regulations governing the approval of agency requests to incorporate material by reference into the Code of Federal Regulations. We’ve set out the petition in this document. We would like comments on the broad issues raised by this petition.

  • Re: Request for Information 2012–7602, 77 FR 19357 submitted by Public.Resource.Org to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of the Office of Management and Budget Washington (April 11, 2012).

See also: Liberating America’s secret, for-pay laws.

Liberating America’s secret, for-pay laws

Cory Doctorow says: “This morning, I found a an enormous, 30Lb box waiting for me at my post-office box. Affixed to it was a sticker warning me that by accepting this box into my possession, I was making myself liable for nearly $11 million in damages. The box was full of paper, and printed on the paper were US laws — laws that no one is allowed to publish or distribute without permission. Carl Malamud, Boing Boing’s favorite rogue archivist, is the guy who sent me this glorious box of weird. I was expecting it, because he asked me in advance if I minded being one of the 25 entities who’d receive this law-bomb on deposit. I was only too glad to accept — on the condition that Carl write us a guest editorial explaining what this was all about. He was true to his word.”

  • Liberating America’s secret, for-pay laws, By Carl Malamud, boingboing (Mar 19, 2012).

    Boing Boing Official Guest Memorandum of Law
    To: 	The Standards People
    Cc: 	The Rest of Us People
    From: 	Carl Malamud, Public.Resource.Org
    In Re: 	Our Right to Replicate the Law Without a License

Senate legislative appropriations released. Future for GPO and FDLP in doubt

Last month the House released its legislative appropriations (“Privatization of GPO, Defunding of FDsys, and the Future of the FDLP”). As we noted then, “the future of long-term preservation of and free access to government information is in the hands of Congress today.” And it doesn’t look any better today with the release of the Senate’s legislative appropriations markup, S.Rept. 112-080 (see p.42 – 44).

The Senate added $500,000 to the House’s revolving fund appropriations of ZERO (GPO had requested $6million!) — but looks to be thinking that FDsys funding will come from there (GPO requested $6million for FDsys!) — added around $6.8 million to congressional binding and printing and kept $35 million for salary and expenses for the Superintendent of Documents — the same amount as the House. There’s none of that restructuring language in the House appropriations (requesting GAO to research the efficacy of GPO privatization and splitting functions between LC and GSA). The Senate is recommending a 12.4 percent reduction in overall funding for the GPO from the fiscal year 2011 enacted level, which is only slightly less ugly than the 20% reduction recommended by the House.

Please call, write and email your Senators TODAY and express your support for FULL GPO funding, *especially* if you happen to live in a state whose Senator sits on the Appropriations Committee.