“O” is for Open Government

Ben Smith on liberating the transition’s intellectual property:

The Obama transition made a subtle, but dramatic, change to its intellectual property licensing yesterday, and the groups pushing for freer use of content on the Internet are releasing a letter this morning requesting two more changes to the way the transition is handling its online content.

The letter is an attempt to turn the high-profile transition into a demonstration project for a looser online copyright regime, and to highlight an issue that will face the new administration. The signers include¬† Silicon Valley figures like Lawrence Lessig, Tim O’Reilly, the people behind Mozilla, Wikipedia, and RedditMozilla, as well as officials of groups including MoveOn.org and Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions. They celebrated Obama’s move yesterday to attach a Creative Commons license to the content of the transition website, allowing bloggers and others to freely use it.

The letter asks that the transition also make its video content freely available, by making streams and downloads of addresses and press conferences free to download or stream on the website — not forcing viewers and video producers to commercial sites like YouTube or CNN, and into potential copyright problems.

Lessig on open government principles:

Put briefly, the three principles are:

1. No Legal Barrier to Sharing (law (copyright law) should not block sharing);

2. No Technological Barrier to Sharing (code (limitations on downloads, for example) should not block sharing;

3. Free competition (no alliances should favor one commercial entity over another, or commercial over noncommercial entities).

Some have framed these as “demands” made of the administration. That’s like saying the mouse can make demands of the lion. We’re not making demands; we’re describing good policy.

You can read the rationale for the principles at open-government.us. Michael Masnick says the whole thing is no big deal.