Keep the public's work the property of the public

Keep the public’s work the property of the public

Whether data or documents, government agencies need to keep taxpayer-funded work free

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Encroaching or unclear copyright means that taxpayer-funded documents and data are less usable, available, and analyzed.

We wrote about how the state of New York makes hundreds of thousands of dollars enforcing its “I ♥ NY” licensing. Many government agencies, when posting material on sites like Flickr, claim “All Rights Reserved,” like the Massachusetts Attorney General’s page, pictured above.

But while these examples may seem trivial, the implications can be very real: TechDirt has covered how Mississippi and Georgia have state laws are made largely inaccessible because they are intertwined with copyrighted annotation.

And now police departments are beginning to farm out their data collection and management, skirting public records law and creating closed, unaccountable silos of copyrighted data bought and paid for by the public, give over to the discretion of private corporations.

Because of these very real problems, MuckRock has endorsed a set of open licensing recommendations for government, developed by Joshua Tauberer, Eric Mill, Jonathan Gray, Parker Higgins and Michael Weinberg, each of whom represents an important voice in the open government movement. The recommendations cover the importance of a free, unencumbered public commons of government data, special considerations, and a simple, readable license to be added to government-derived works:

This work was created through a government contract which assigned copyright to [the United States Government or Agency name]. [Agency Name] waives copyright and related rights in the work worldwide through the CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication (which can be found at

Much like how all of Florida’s governmental organization charts place the people as the top executive, we feel this is a good reminder to everyone — public servants and the public — that works paid for by the people and done for the people are and should remain for the people.

Learn more about this proposal at

Image via Wikimedia Commons