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Tim Berners-Lee Unveils UK Government Data Project

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the hey-lets-do-that-too dept.

Government 25

Sri.Theo writes "For a long time, the UK hasn't had the default access to government information that the US has, but a campaign by Tim Berners-Lee finally yielded results with access to masses of local information. The hope is that this will make access to government services easier and more useful for everyone. Crucially, it's not just for developers; everyone can submit and comment on ideas for use of the data."

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Really? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#30848296)

We in the US have access to government information by default?

Re:Really? (2, Insightful)

ACS Solver (1068112) | more than 4 years ago | (#30848836)

In Soviet Britain, the government has access you YOUR information!

Not entirely accurate (3, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30848308)

...the UK hasn't had the default access to government information that the US has...

Oh please! Just because our government makes more information available doesn't mean any of it is useful in determining what our government is doing. Anything interesting is blacked out and requires a dozen FOIA requests to get, or is locked away in perpetuity behind the justification of "National security". Getting timely, factual, and relevant information out of our government is like trying to get product out of those damnable plastic clamshells -- You could wind up seriously injuring yourself trying to get to it.

The UK has crown copyright. (4, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30848378)

Works of the US government are in the public domain.

I also suspect that you do not realize how much data government agencies in the US (both Federal and state) routinely publish. Most of it is stuff you would consider boring, but others find it very useful.

Re:The UK has crown copyright. (3, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30848768)

Works of the US government are in the public domain.

Quite a few aren't.

USPS materials, artwork, design and all postage stamps as of January 1, 1978 or after are subject to copyright laws. Works produced by the Department of Commerce are exempt under the Standard Reference Data Act. It also doesn't apply to state or municipal governments, or "organized territories" under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Government (Such as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, etc.) Only Florida and Minnesota routinely place their materials in the public domain. Many logos and emblems of federal government agencies are also protected. Executive Order 13526 (Signed by Obama in 2009) also establishes classifications of federal government work; National security interests pre-empt the release of information to the public in many cases.

Most works produced by the miliary are also protected, as are works by NASA (under Federal Acquisition Regulations). NASA, for example, while routinely releasing data for public use, remains copyrighted and they often release the work on a delay to allow researchers involved in their respective projects to publish their research ahead of publication of the raw data by NASA. Government contractors are also not required to release their work into the public domain. A contractor may assert claim to copyright in scientific and technical articles based on or containing data first produced in the performance of a contract and published in academic, technical or professional journals, symposia proceedings, or the like.

Note: Most of this information I lifted from various wikipedia pages and are direct quotes or paraphrasing of the same.

Re:The UK has crown copyright. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30849196)

Works authored by the Postal Service are claimed not be works of the US Government (sounds fishy to me, but as far as I know this has not been contested in court). Works of government contractors are not works of the US government because contractors are not employees (much work assumed to be by NASA and/or DoD is actually the work of contractors). State and local governments are, of course, not part of the US Government. I know of no exemption for works of NASA or the military: such things may be classified, but that does not mean that they are protected by copyright. I was unaware of the (lamentable) DoC loophole.

Re:The UK has crown copyright. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30850238)

BTW nothing in the Copyright Act requires that the US Government publish or release anything: it just bars it from asserting its copyright (with exceptions as noted). That is why NASA holds back data: it's the only way they can give researchers publication priority (though in the USA copyright doesn't apply to pure data anyway).

And trademark is, of course, entirely seperate from and unrelated to copyright.

FOIA, with all its exceptions and loopholes, is about requiring release of material and is really orthogonal to copyright.

Re:The UK has crown copyright. (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 4 years ago | (#30854774)

Maybe OP was comparing the default-PD that the US has to the "crown copyright" they have in the UK.

Re:The UK has crown copyright. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30850280)

NASA data is definitely free. Only exception is the logos.

"NASA still images; audio files; video; and computer files used in the rendition of 3-dimensional models, such as texture maps and polygon data in any format, generally are not copyrighted. "

Since Wikipedia can use them (and it does), they are free.

Re:The UK has crown copyright. (1)

MrMr (219533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30849302)

Are you sure about that copyright? I was under the impression that they distributed their works for free on USB sticks.

Re:The UK has crown copyright. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30850552)

> I was under the impression that they distributed their works for free on USB
> sticks.

Only classified ones.

Re:The UK has crown copyright. (1)

theguyfromsaturn (802938) | more than 4 years ago | (#30850192)

Yes indeed. From geologic data, to construction codes and reports, it really is nice to visit a number of US public agencies. Most governments are not that open about the data that their taxpayers money has paid for, but to which the same taxpayers cannot easily get access. I wish my own government had more policies like those in place. However, things do seem to be improving. At least where the geospatial data is concerned, I'm starting to see some movement.

Re:Not entirely accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30849206)

Although I agree with you fundamentally, this is not, in my eyes, about making government more transparent (even if that's what they say) - this is about having easy access to reliable data that the taxpayer has paid to be collected. The information that can be sourced from has already been used in some useful, albeit dull, ways, including locating and reporting potholes! I think this is a good thing for the UK, and although it may not be a leap forward in terms of making government more transparent and accountable, at least we now have access to information we have paid for!

It's a Drupal site (0, Offtopic)

jim0203 (980945) | more than 4 years ago | (#30848320)

Well, it is.

<Insert obligatory disparagement of D2 here> (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 4 years ago | (#30854786)

Well, it is.

New U.K. Goverment Data Project: Pronto ! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30848496)

Please find AND publish the information about Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

I double dare you !

Yours In Astrakhan,
Kilgore Trout

P.S.: N.P.R. ( National Public Radio) IS commercial radio. Simply listen for the 5-minute breaks detailing program "sponsors".

In Canada... (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30848754)

Our Governing system is such a joke, we can afford to have Joke parties []
Just read some of those campaign promises.

In all seriousness though, they've done a decent job so far. It's never gotten so bad that we demand more information out of them, and as far as I recall any information I wanted to find out was easily searchable.

What, you've never heard of CSIS? Does that make it better or worse at its job than the CIA?

Re:In Canada... (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30848916)

Our Governing system is such a joke, we can afford to have Joke parties too. []

In all seriousness though, we're talking about local information and local government here is a completely different beast.

Re:In Canada... (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30849040)

I Dial 311. I know all my local services. Don't know who started that but its a great service. If I'm lucky, I'll even get a live operator to talk to about it.

Well worth it. (4, Funny)

Kugrian (886993) | more than 4 years ago | (#30848784)

I've been using the beta for a while with those free laptops they leave on trains.

Not entirely true... (3, Insightful)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30849126)

In the U.S., we get access to government data by default when it's convenient.

When it is not, we get stiffed. Witness the ACTA [] fiasco. And we will get stiffed on this one if we don't keep up the pressure, and get Congress out of the habit of passing legislation they can't even bother to read. []

England still has an Official Secrets Act [] far as I know. How's that working out for ya?

If it's any consolation, we don't bother with that in the U.S., really. We just fight it out in the courts.

Re:Not entirely true... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30852568)

Uhh, you should come visit some time.

We also have a freedom of information act, and just like you it makes information available on request.

And our Official Secrets Act is essentially just a mandated non-disclosure agreement of the kind that most of your government also sign.

Remind me, where can I examine the full expenses claims of your congressmen?

Re:Not entirely true... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30858362)

And you don't have an official secrets act?! What do you charge people with when they release restricted or top secret information that they work with, into the public domain? How do you protect your state secrets?

Or was that just a thinly veiled shot at at old totalitarian Britain to make yourself feel better about the restrictions your own government imposes on you? Nice try, but you clearly didn't realise that the UK Gov doesn't bother trying to hide their nanny state tendencies - the bastards keep getting voted in based on these tendencies - unlike the US where its better form to talk freedom while greasing up the rubber gloves.

It's not so great yet. (1)

cs02rm0 (654673) | more than 4 years ago | (#30849342)

It's mostly a collection of links to local government websites. There are a few things I'd rather see done differently:

- data held centrally by so it can be directly accessed...
- ...and held in common, open formats rather than the current MS only formats
- queryable data, not just massive spreadsheets

It seems to have potential. It's not much use right now though.

If not now, it will be soon :) (2, Interesting)

mattpalmer1086 (707360) | more than 4 years ago | (#30853554)

Errr... I freely admit I haven't exhaustively looked through the data currently available, but the whole point of is to publish data in semantic web formats. If the current stuff isn't quite there yet - it will be, and in totally standardised, mash-up-able, formats. I wasn't aware there was any MS format stuff on there at all.

Disclaimer: I know the people involved in this project, and they constantly talk about using XML, RDF, GRDDL, OWL, and so on...

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