Borders in Cyberspace

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Key essay on the issues related to the Open Data movement



Peter Weiss, Borders in Cyberspace

"Many nations are embracing the concept of open and unrestricted access to public sector information -- particularly scientific, environmental, and statistical information of great public benefit. Federal information policy in the US is based on the premise that government information is a valuable national resource and that the economic benefits to society are maximized when taxpayer funded information is made available inexpensively and as widely as possible. This policy is expressed in the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 and in Office of Management and Budget Circular No. A-130, “Management of Federal Information Resources.”[1] This policy actively encourages the development of a robust private sector, offering to provide publishers with the raw content from which new information services may be created, at no more than the cost of dissemination and without copyright or other restrictions.

In other countries, particularly in Europe, publicly funded government agencies treat their information holdings as a commodity used to generate short-term revenue. They assert monopoly control on certain categories of information to recover the costs of its collection or creation. Such arrangements tend to preclude other entities from developing markets for the information or otherwise disseminating the information in the public interest.

In the US, open and unrestricted access to public sector information has resulted in the rapid growth of information intensive industries particularly in the geographic information and environmental services sectors. Similar growth has not occurred in Europe due to restrictive government information practices. As a convenient shorthand, one might label the American and European approaches as ‘open access’ and ‘cost recovery’, respectively. The cost recovery model is now being challenged on a variety of grounds." (