May 14, 2012
Under 17 U.S.C.A. Section 105, copyright is unavailable for works of the U.S. government or its employees. Jill’s excellent post last week highlighted the fact that state agencies and the states themselves don’t necessarily share the policy. Instead state ” [l]egislatures may also be tempted to impose statutory restrictions on information in order to raise revenues from new sources or to accomplish other purposes,” notes Robert Gellman in a 1995 Syracuse Law Review. 45 SYRLR 999.
Could it be enough to defray the cost of the Diamond Jubilee? Hard to say.
Copyright for government works in the the UK and in several members of her Commowealth, vests in Her Majesty the Queen under what’s called, Crown Copyright. See, for example, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-42, s. 12 and McKeown: Fox on Canadian Law of Copyright and Industrial Designs (FoxCopyright 18).
This 2005 article from the International Journal of Law and Technology by Dr. Stephen Saxby cites to a 1995 Green Paper (pdf) which calculated 95-96 revenue came to £199,318,500. The Telegraph estimates much more than that for the Jubilee.
This is also interesting because the United States is a signatory to the Berne Convention. Signatories must extend the same protection to foreign material that they would extend had the same work been created domestically (this summary elides a great deal of detail and nuance). This raises the specter that a country which extends copyright protection to its own government works would have to similarly extend protection to American government works, even though the U.S. government extends no protection domestically. For a discussion of that scenario, see footnote 49 in 48 STJIL 185.
Other Research References
To see the British law on Crown Copyrights, try the search crown /2 copyright in UK-ST. I found 32 results.
The Berne Convention on Westlaw. The relevant database is IEL (International Economic Law Documents) and the relevant search is ti(“berne convention”), and the results show both the original agreement and subsequent amendments.
Finally, 2002 SYLTJ 1 gives a brief description how easy it would be to register an American government document with the Canadian Copyright office.