The Creative Commons license announcement on Change.gov seems odd. Federal government materials are generally public domain upon creation, thus the CC license makes reuse of the content more restrictive. [See DOL statement, for example.]

It makes sense for Change.gov to spell out copyright for user-generated content, but it should not be a retroactive action. And any CC license should not include info created by Obama and his team. Finally, the CC license should prohibits commercial use of UGC material! But this one doesn’t.

Here’s what I wrote over at Lessig’s blog:

Contrary to some of the statements made in comments, the U.S. taxpayer pays salaries as well as office space and equipment for the President-elect’s transition team. Congress has budgeted $8.52 million for the General Services Administration to carry out the Presidential Transition Act of 1963.

The Presidents-elect have also raised money to supplement the taxpayer funds. The most expensive (in 2008 dollars) transition since 1952 was Clinton’s. However, George W. had a short transition period (starting in December, not November), so his would be the most expensive if calculated on a per day rate.

See http://uspolitics.about.com/od/elections/a/prez_transition.htm

The CC license makes sense for the UGC portion of the Change.gov website. It does not make sense for any material prepared by the transition team, especially since the site specifically cites the Presidential Transition Act of 1963 as its reason for being. Thus, the site is an official part of the U.S. Government. You don’t get a “.gov” domain name unless your material is for an official government purpose!

Moreover, the more appropriate CC license — if they’re not going public domain (and there is a CC Public Domain license) would be attribution + non-commercial!

We don’t know how much of the Change.gov originated-content is being produced on government equipment or in government offices.

We don’t know how much of the President-elect’s transition budget will be supplemented with private donations.

But even if material is produced with private funds, in the spirit of openness the Obama team should be making its material available with a public domain license. And it should be pushing for any purchased assets to be licensed in an attribution/share/non-commercial manner.

Written by Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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