Mailing List Message #64
From: Clifford Lynch <>
Sender: <>
Subject: Copyright & Marking US Government Works
Date: Tue, 03 Oct 2006 22:50:02 -0400
To: <>
Copyright & Marking US Government Works
I'm cross-posting this meeting announcement from the SPARC mailing list, as I think that it may be of interest to some CNI-announce readers that would not otherwise see it. It addresses some very interesting questions about how we should identify works that are part of the public domain.

Clifford Lynch
Director, CNI


CENDI ( is a cooperative of the major U.S. Government scientific and technical information centers.
Copyright and Marking US Government Works: Why Keep the Public Guessing?

Harding Auditorium
U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington DC

November 2, 2006

The CENDI Copyright Working Group is exploring the feasibility of establishing a symbol, tag and metadata to mark and identify government works (Title 17 USC Sec 105) in analog and digital formats. This is of immediate interest since the Federal Research Public Access Bill (Cronyn-Lieberman) includes a provision requiring that works by Federal employees be marked as being in the public domain when they are published. Whether implemented government-wide or on a department or agency basis, marking government works would benefit both government and citizen users in identifying what is a government work and free from copyright restrictions. The program is designed to go from the general to the specific - from policy to operations. An underlying theme is the role and need for standards in government digital enterprise initiatives.

The public conference will be held from 9:30am-2:30pm. A small working group session for US government and support contractors only follows from 2:45pm-4:00pm.

Government Information Managers, CIOs, Librarians, Government IP Attorneys, Government Editors, Publishers and Web Managers, Public Affairs Managers


Register by October 23, 2006

There is no registration fee; however, you must register for entry into the GPO building.  U.S. Government employees should bring their Government I.D.s.  Non-U.S. Government employees must have a valid picture I.D. such as a Drivers License.

The registration site also includes a preliminary program and directions

BACKGROUND: Government works are defined under Title 17 USC Sec 101 as "prepared by an officer or employee of theUnited States government as part of that person's official duties." Government agencies on their web sites usually advise users that information on the site is not copyrighted unless otherwise stated, and that absent a notice, the information may be distributed or copied. Prior to joining the Berne Convention in 1989, it was reasonable and practical for the government not to give notice or mark government works. Post-Berne, this practice leads to confusion and uncertainty. When the work is separated from its originating source, you're forced to guess. Under the old law, the burden was on the copyright holder to give notice or else forfeit copyright protection. Now that a notice is optional and automatically "vests in original works of authorship," the burden is on users. Absent a copyright notice, users must assume the work is copyrighted, investigate its status and seek permission if their intended use is beyond the allowed exemptions.

A government mark would serve as Copyright Management Information (CMI), defined under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) as identifying information about a work, author, copyright owner (or not) as well as terms and conditions for use of the work.

This question of marking government works is of immediate interest since the Federal Research Public Access Bill (Cronyn-Lieberman) has, as one of its provisions, the requirement that works by Federal employees "be marked as being public domain material when published."  Whether the bill ever passes, agencies may choose to implement some or all of the provisions, following the lead of the National Institutes of Health.

QUESTIONS: Contact Kathryn Johnson, CENDI Secretariat,
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