Tuesday, January 13, 2009

1911 census

The 1911 census is released today, three years ahead of the normal 100 year embargo, which I have blogged about on my family history blog.

I have an uncomfortable feeling about the way in which government takes public data and makes us pay to access it. Ihave an even more uncomfortable feeling about the way in which they are quick to claim copyright on data, even data which was originated by other people and then donated to the national archives - which may be a copy and not the original document.

They have in the past few years sold access to the census returns to other commercial companies... so the information from your ancestors suddenly becomes an asset which you aren't allowed to reproduce or give to anyone else.

I have a similar sense of unease about national galleries which refuse to let you photograph national assets. It just seems wrong for them to be charging people simply to photograph artwrks - and claiming copyright in the photographs of things which are out of copyright. I hope that more and more follow the model of allowing free access to works which should be in the public domain.

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