federal government

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Crown Copyright – Who benefits?

Michael Geist has a new post about crown copyright, including all the good arguments that it should be killed. But this gem really takes the cake:

Beyond the policy reasons for abandoning crown copyright, internal government documents reveal other concerns. Financially, the federal crown copyright system costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Documents from Public Works and Government Services Canada, which administers the crown copyright system, reveal that in the 2006-7 fiscal year, crown copyright licensing generated less than $7,000 in revenue, yet the system cost over $200,000 to administer.

Not only does crown copyright mean citizens face unnecessary restrictions on use of government data and documents they paid for with their taxes, it ALSO means that they have to pay EXTRA to not have free access to the data & documents. (Though note, both 7k and 200k are drops in the bucket of federal budgets). But still, if it’s a money suck as well as everything else, what’s the point of it? Here’s one answer:

For example, an educational institution request to reproduce a photo of a Snowbird airplane was denied on the grounds that the photo was to be used for an article raising questions about the safety of the program. Similarly, a request to reproduce a screen capture of the NEXUS cross-border program with the U.S. was declined since it was to be used in an article that would not portray the program in a favourable light. Although it seems unlikely that crown copyright authorization was needed to use these images, the government’s decision to deny permission smacks of censorship and misuse of Canadian copyright law.

Does anyone have any compelling arguments in favour of crown copyright?

[thanks Sara!]

feds kill info access registry

OTTAWA–The federal Conservatives have quietly killed a giant information registry that was used by lawyers, academics, journalists and ordinary citizens to hold government accountable.The registry, created in 1989, is an electronic list of every request filed to all federal departments and agencies under the Access to Information Act.Known as CAIRS, for Co-ordination of Access to Information Requests System, the database allowed ordinary citizens to identify millions of pages of once-secret documents that became public through individual freedom-of-information requests over many years

Alasdair Roberts, a political scientist at Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in New York, built a version of the database by requesting the CAIRS electronic records through an Access to Information Act request, and updated the site monthly. CBC journalist David McKie took over the work in 2006 using another publicly accessible website (http://www.onlinedemocracy.ca).

Articles & Posts about this issue:

canada & electric cars

From the economist, with the emphasis added:

IN THESE times of high petrol prices and worries about climate change, you might think that any country would be proud to enjoy a lead in manufacturing electric cars. Not Canada, it seems. Two Canadian companies, ZENN Motor Company and Dynasty Electric Car, make small electric cars designed for city use; a third, which will use new battery technology developed by Exxon Mobil, plans to launch a model later this year.

But almost all these “low-speed vehicles” (or LSVs) are exported to the United States because Canada refuses to allow their use on public roads. Transport Canada, the regulatory agency, questions their safety. It doubts they would stand up in a collision with a delivery truck or a sport utility vehicle. Officials say they crash-tested one which didn’t fare well, though they refuse to release the data. The agency wants LSVs confined to “controlled areas”, such as university campuses, military bases, parks and Canada’s few gated communities. Its advice has carried weight with the provinces, which make the rules of the road

[more...]

I was reading some of the web accessible INDU submissions by Canadian groups and individuals posted on Michael Geist’s Blog, and a common theme is open & free access to data and scientific research! Very Niiiiice!

You can access them and M. Geist’s here: Industry Committee on Canada’s Science and Technology Strategy

I submitted a brief to the Study on Canadian Science and Technology of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

I include items on data access, preservation, dissemination, the lack of a data and information infrastructure or vision, the lack of a Science Foundation for Canada and a small mention of community wireless networks.  I also briefly discuss the importance of public participation on these issues.

ParlVu

ParlVu is apparently bringing Parliament to your desktop! Well then! It seems like you can access live feeds of meetings in progress while access to

archived audio files are only accessible to those within the parliamentary Intranet (members, senators, press gallery, and staff within the parliamentary precinct).   I am told eventually they will be made accessible to the public, but no idea when.   If you`re willing to contact someone with access to ParlVu archives you could hear it.   Otherwise, ParlVu is a tool for a live feed. (email correspondence from a helpful clerk)

political tag clouds

Civic data comes in many guises, and this is a neat way to analyze a politician’s speeches:
wordcloud

Last year’s 2007 State of the Union Tag Cloud was such a hit, I decided to follow up again this year…

[from Boing Boing]

Would be nice to do this systematically for every politician, maybe just based on their web pages? Or published documents, anyway.

Well, why not? Why not, indeed? Here is:

Stephen Harper:

created at TagCrowd.com

Stephane Dion:

created at TagCrowd.com

Jack Layton:

created at TagCrowd.com

Gilles Duceppe:

created at TagCrowd.com

stephenson on transparency

David Stephenson writes a great piece arguing for freeing government data:

I suspect my presentation today will be the first time many of you have heard of “transparent government.” It is an exciting new way of treating government data that will blossom as Web 2.0 apps, and what I call the Web 2.0 ethos of cooperation, become commonplace.Among other benefits, transparent government can:

* build public confidence in government
* improve the quality of public debate
* improve delivery of government services

and may even reduce the cost of those services.

[more...]

(via jon udell)

There have been some waves on the web about Canada’s expected copyright legislation. For some info, see:

I just sent a letter (as a private citizen) to a number of pols, including my MP and Industry Minister Jim Prentice:

Dear Minister Prentice:

I am disturbed by the Government’s announcement that a new copyright bill will be tabled in December, without any public consultation. Copyright is a crucial issue for Canadian competitiveness – in education, science, business, and culture. All indications are that overly restrictive copyright laws stifle innovation, yet this is exactly what the Government appears to be tabling. A restrictive copyright bill could have disastrous effects on the future of the country.

The most important problem is that the Government is tabling a bill without consultations with Canadians, so that a full range of voices has not been heard. This means that the best decision cannot be made, and instead narrow interests of those who *do* have the Government’s ear are likely to trump what is good for the future of the country.

The bill, apparently, is likely to include anti-circumvention provisions (digital locks on machines so that using the things Canadians buy, the way they wish to use them will be illegal). These provisions have proved to create significant harm to education, privacy protection, security, research, free speech, and consumer interests.

The bill does not address crucial issues such as protecting parody, time shifting, device shifting, and the making of backup copies. Further, it does not address outdated and innovation-stifling crown copyright, or restrict statutory damages awards to cases of commercial infringement.

The government last consulted Canadians on digital copyright issues in 2001. The Internet and technology use have changed dramatically since then, yet the Government has done little – that I am aware of – to find out what implications these changes have on Canadians. On businesses, on teachers, on regular people.

As a small web business owner, I am shocked that the Government would charge ahead on such important legislation without doing the work required to understand the implications properly, without doing the work required to find out how it will impact Canadians, and what it is that Canadians actually want.

Please reconsider this dangerous approach.

Best regards,
etc.

Ecologo

Ecologo is an excellent example of a Government of Canada consumer data and information service that facilitates the making of informed decisions on how and what to consume.

I discovered it this morning while reading an article about greening computers in the Globe and Mail. I pay attention to electronic waste on my personal blog but think Ecologo is also relevant here as it is a program that provides data on green consumer product certification to Canadians using a rigorous review system. There is also a tinge of national pride here when I read the following even though I know that Canada as a green country is a myth, nonetheless Ecologo was:

launched by the Canadian federal government in 1988, EcoLogo is North America’s oldest environmental standard and certification organization (and the second oldest in the world). It is the only North American standard accredited by the Global Ecolabeling Network as meeting the international ISO 14024 standard for Type I (third-party certified, multi-attribute) environmental labels.

Environment Canada has always been excellent at developing sustainability and other quality of life criteria and monitoring measures. It is one of those interesting departments that is both science and policy, and they stick to good science in their methods to communicate, evaluate and disseminate – budgets permitting of course!

EcoLogoM certification criteria documents (CCDs) are developed in an open, public and transparent process, with a broad base of stakeholder participation including user groups (e.g. procurement associations, institutional purchasers and consumer protection organizations), product producers (e.g. industry members and associations), government / regulators, general science-based representatives (e.g. academics, life cycle experts and other scientists), environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs), and other environmental advocates. The criteria address multiple environmental attributes related to human health and environmental considerations throughout the life cycle of the product. Currently, there are 122 Certification Criteria Documents addressing over 250 product types.

You can look up just about anything and discover products in their impressive list. I like that there is a rigorous system in place that is about making informed choices. This is what data are for! They also have an excellent purchaser’s tool box organized by product, category or company.

Hmm! Wonder if we could ever develop a criteria to evaluate organizations on their access, preservation and dissemination of data? What would be the key criteria in such an evaluation? Would an organization get a Free and Open Knowledge certificate (the acronym is terrible! we need Michael Lenczner‘s help here!)? A CivicAccess gold, silver or bronze stamp of data democracy and liberation?

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