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Government Information and Added Value
From: David Farber <farber () central cis upenn edu>
Date: Thu, 9 Feb 1995 15:02:14 -0500

Posted-Date: Thu, 9 Feb 1995 15:00:44 -0500
Date: Thu, 9 Feb 95 15:01:44 -0500
From: shap () viper cis upenn edu (Jonathan Shapiro)
To: farber () central cis upenn edu
Cc: interesting-people () eff org
Subject: Government Information and Added Value

Regardless of which version of the text you read, the question of
added value still requires clarification.  As far as I can see, the
pivotal question is:

   Under what circumstances does the aggregation and indexing of
   government data constitute "added value?"

A reasonable statute should ensure two things:

1. Nobody (i.e. no information provider) should operate at a
competative disadvantage with regard to the raw data stream.  There
should be an initially level playing field, which requires that all
players get the same initial input at the same time.

2. West and others really do provide unique added value with their
indexing, storage, and presentation services, and should not be forced
to make such unique value public without fee.

This gets complicated when an information provider gets involved in
the construction of the official data source (a natural move for both
sides), creating an advantage by obtaining early access.

I think the solution is straightforward: any government organization,
in providing electronic information, should define a standard for that
data and provide the data to all comers under that organization.  The
government organization can contract out the construction of any
necessary indexes, but the requirements of the contract must ensure
that no information provider gets early access by virtue of such
subcontracting.  The contract must also make clear that the resulting
work product is the exclusive property of the government.


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