Copyright office should free the database of copyrights!

Carl Malamud sez, "In an act of unintended irony, the U.S. Copyright Office sells the database of copyrights for $86,625. The Library of Congress even asserts that the database is copyrighted 'outside the United States', which would of course make it hard for somebody to put the database on an anonymous FTP server for anybody to get. And, why would we restrict access to a database that was specifically called out in the U.S. Constitution?

"In a letter to Marybeth Peters, the Register of Copyright, librarians from universities such as Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, Pennsylvania, and the Internet Archive all ask the Copyright Office to free this data."

The copyright catalog of monographs, documents, and serials is not a product, it is fuel that makes the copyright system work. Anybody should be able to download the entire database to their desktop, write a better search application, or use this public domain information to research copyright questions.

A price tag of $86,625 places this database beyond the reach of university libraries, small businesses that wish to provide a better copyright search service, and academics or citizens wishing to analyze the copyright registration process. Additionally, setting copyright restrictions on the copyright database, a "work of the United States Government," runs directly counter to the well-established principle that such works shall be in the public domain.


(Thanks, Carl!)