Information access policy and Crown copyright regulation in the electronic age: which way forward?
International Journal of Law and Information Technology, 6, (1), . (doi:10.1093/ijlit/6.1.1).
In one sense it is remarkable just how much progress has been made during the 1990's in the delivery of official information to the public. Just three years ago the former Conservative Government, in its first official comment on the implications of the Internet for the provision of public sector services, discussed tentative ideas for exploiting the Information Superhighway for the public good. Since then government departments and agencies, together with business and commerce, have made significant use of the digital network, most notably the Internet to advertise services and deliver basic information to the public. Nevertheless, despite this and the associated relaxations in Crown copyright that have come with it, it is not clear that the parameters of future information policy have been defined. It is true that a significant amount of official information can now be retrieved electronically but fundamental decisions by government about its precise intent in this area have yet to be made. The position has been further complicated by a new UK government whose information policy is currently in its formative stage.
It is perhaps inevitable that what started as a simple proposition - the possibility that government might use the new communications medium of the electronic network to deliver access to official information - should have become a more complex issue once detailed choices began to emerge. Was the question merely one of the improved delivery of transactional services between government and citizen or was a wider democratic objective involved viz., using the new electronic media to advance the political dialogue between government and the governed through enhanced access to politicians, Parliamentary proceedings and other official information? Could discussion of these matters take place on its own merits or was a benefit to be gained by co-ordinating action in some form of national information policy? If these issues were important to what extent should policy development be driven so as to promote the UK information market and particularly the prospects for enhanced commercial input into the above? In addition, how did UK approaches towards these questions compare with emerging European Union views on access and tradeable information policy? This article explores these questions and considers the choices that may lie ahead.
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