The Many Faces of the Public Domain
Edited by Charlotte Waelde and Hector MacQueen
Chapter 11: The Public Domain and Public Sector Information
Richard Susskind OBE 1 Introduction This chapter concerns public sector information (PSI). Broadly speaking, PSI is information that is created within or on behalf of public sector bodies. In the Internet age, PSI is a form of intellectual property that is rapidly increasing in significance – economically, socially and legally. This chapter seeks to place PSI in its broader context of UK information policy; to explain the overlap between the PSI and the freedom of information regimes; to clarify the scope, sources and value of PSI; to chart the evolution of government policy, legislation and regulation in relation to PSI; to offer a critique of the current position (as at February 2006); and to illustrate some of the central themes through a brief case study relating to statutory material. 2 Background Governments have always been in the business of managing information – as creators, controllers, distributors, and more. As a holder of information, until a decade ago, the state had two main roles in relation to information. First, there was the responsibility to ensure that information on matters of national security was held securely and beyond the reach of potential miscreants. Second, there was the job of ensuring that full records of public affairs were maintained, archived and made accessible to authorised persons. At the same time, much public information enjoyed a form of intellectual property protection known as Crown copyright, which meant that the reproduction of public information generally required permission and that any licence to reproduce would often have been...
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