Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Renting Government Copyright Records

The US Copyright Office keeps a huge database of every registered copyrighted publication and artwork in the United States. How can you find out if an item is in the list? Well, you can go through a (minorly) complex process of querying the Copyright Office, which doesn't help if you're unsure of an author, title, publisher, etc. Want to browse the database? That, there, costs you $86,625 to get into, despite the fact that government publications are usually exempt from copyright's restrictions, and lists of data aren't protected under copyright anyway. So, why is this public-owned database of artistic license protected? public.resource.org's Carl Malamud of would like to know, and hopefully have the access changed. I know that when querying the Library of Congress I can only get in once in a while, because they restrict database access to a limited number of simultaneous users. Let other people replicate these databases, download updates, and take the load off the government's offices, I say.