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DoD Public Domain Archive To Be Privatized, Locked Up For 10 Years 183

Posted by timothy
from the oh-they're-only-tax-dollars dept.
Jah-Wren Ryel writes "Looks like the copyright cartel have raided the public domain yet again — the US DoD has signed an exclusive contract with T3 Media to digitize their media archive in exchange for T3 having complete licensing control for 10 years. Considering that all output from the US government is, by law, ineligible for copyright, this deal seems borderline illegal at best. To make matters worse, it appears that there is no provision to make the digitized content freely accessible after the 10 years are up — which means we risk having all that content disappear into T3."
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DoD Public Domain Archive To Be Privatized, Locked Up For 10 Years

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  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Saturday December 21, 2013 @12:41PM (#45754159) Homepage

    From reading TFAs, it seems T3 is getting an "exclusive license to charge for access", which isn't really a legal concept AFAIK. It looks like T3 is taking public-domain DoD images and videos, digitizing and cataloging them, then charging for access to the digital form. They're exclusively selling that access to the digital catalog, but the images and videos themselves are still public domain. I'm not sure whether digitizing counts as creating a new work for copyright purposes.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Saturday December 21, 2013 @01:02PM (#45754295)

    The government themselves do this kind of thing sometimes: charge for the actual delivery of the digital documents, which are public domain. That's not illegal, just not really sustainable. Since they're public domain, anyone who buys them could, if they choose, redistribute them. One instance of that that I recall was that in 1999, Bruce Perens bought the TIGER [census.gov] geographic data set from the US Census on CD, for I think $500 or $1000 or something, and then released it online freely. The Census Bureau wised up and you can now download new versions of the TIGER data set directly from the Census at the previous link instead of having to play that game.

    Another example is the court document database, PACER, which has public-domain documents but charges per-page for access. That's led to RECAP [cornell.edu], a project to slowly siphon documents out of it and republish them.

  • Re:Derivative works (Score:5, Informative)

    by blueg3 (192743) on Saturday December 21, 2013 @01:18PM (#45754399)

    T3 isn't claiming copyright.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 21, 2013 @01:20PM (#45754417)

    As an attorney, I love RECAP; but not as much as my clients do. Whenever I have a case where I pass the charges for access on to them, many are genuinely confused as to why they should be charged for the documents. I should point out, that a lot of RECAP access is being added for free because the first time (and only the first time) you see a document as the attorney on the case, you get to access it for free.

  • by HighOrbit (631451) on Saturday December 21, 2013 @01:38PM (#45754547)
    Sarten-X discribes exactly what is going on. In fact, the Contracting Officer probably decided it was in the public interest to digitize and get the data public as opposed to it sitting in the bottom of a box in the proverbial Indiana Jones warehouse lost to the public forever. DoD has some boilerplate contract clauses for this, mainly 252.227-7013 Rights in Technical Data--Noncommercial Items. Alternate I, which states:

    (l) Publication for sale.

    (1) This paragraph only applies to technical data in which the Government has obtained unlimited rights or a license to make an unrestricted release of technical data.

    (2) The Government shall not publish a deliverable technical data item or items identified in this contract as being subject to paragraph (l) of this clause or authorize others to publish such data on its behalf if, prior to publication for sale by the Government and within twenty-four (24) months following the date specified in this contract for delivery of such data or the removal of any national security or export control restrictions, whichever is later, the Contractor publishes that item or items for sale and promptly notifies the Contracting Officer of such publication(s). Any such publication shall include a notice identifying the number of this contract and the Government's rights in the published data.

    (3) This limitation on the Government's right to publish for sale shall continue as long as the data are reasonably available to the public for purchase.

    The point here is that sometimes the Government wants data to become available to the public (as opposed to sitting in a box in the basement) and uses commercial contractors to do it. An example would be something like this: Say somebody discovered several hundred boxes in the basement at Ft. Dix NJ of first-person interviews of soldiers during WWI and the Spanish flu. Now say university historians of WWI want access to these interviews. The historians can fly to NJ, get a hotel room, a rental car, and spend several thousand dollars and weeks digging through, cataloging, and copying the documents or alternately, the DOD can hire a contractor to digitize everything and any historian anywhere in the world can buy it for a few hundred bucks.

  • by Pigeon451 (958201) on Saturday December 21, 2013 @02:09PM (#45754771)

    Title copied from Boing Boing, and the article there is full of hyperbole. T3 is providing digitization to the over 1 million physical media, organize and catalog everything, and then will charge a fee for access (however access for authorized government personnel is FREE). T3 is NOT claiming copyright, they just have an exclusive license for 10 years.

    Check this out:
    300,000 physical videos (300,000 hours!)
    37,000 films (11,000 hours)
    40,000 audio clips (1.5 million minutes)
    700,000 still images
    1.2 million digital images.

    Seems reasonable to me. HALF the library is not even accessible on the internet as they are physical only. This is a good way to preserve what has been accumulated, and a lot of it is very old.

    A much better summary is here:
    http://gcn.com/articles/2013/12/12/dod-library.aspx [gcn.com]

  • by BlueStrat (756137) on Saturday December 21, 2013 @03:29PM (#45755325)

    It seems, lately, that there is a clearer-than-ever delineation between legality and enforceability. If our government commits an illegal act, who is able to enforce it? Who's able to hold them accountable? I wish I could say I had a good answer to that question.

    The answer to your question is the same answer that's included in the Constitution, the same answer that's always been the ultimate answer to all out-of-control governments.

    You. The citizens.

    You and others that would be willing to put your lives on the line when all other options have been shown to be worthless/ineffective, to pick up a sniper rifle, build an IED, make Molotov cocktails, organize and plan, and target the criminal leaders and take them out..

    There are still a few peaceful options left to try yet, like the recent push for a convention of States to amend the Constitution to rein in the Federal government.

    http://conventionofstates.com/ [conventionofstates.com]

    However, if the government steps in to stop such reforms, there will be no alternatives left.

    Strat

  • by 517714 (762276) on Saturday December 21, 2013 @08:42PM (#45757191)
    John Basil Barnhill, ca 1914. Not Thomas Jefferson.

"Look! There! Evil!.. pure and simple, total evil from the Eighth Dimension!" -- Buckaroo Banzai

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