government's operations, to maintain the healthy performance of the economy, and is itself a commodity in the marketplace.

  • The free flow of information between the government and the public is essential to a democratic society. It is also essential that the government minimize the Federal paperwork burden on the public, minimize the cost of its information activities, and maximize the usefulness of government information.

  • In order to minimize the cost and maximize the usefulness of government information, the expected public and private benefits derived from government information should exceed the public and private costs of the information, recognizing that the benefits to be derived from government information may not always be quantifiable.

  • The nation can benefit from government information disseminated both by Federal agencies and by diverse nonfederal parties, including State and local government agencies, educational and other not-for-profit institutions, and for-profit organizations.

  • Because the public disclosure of government information is essential to the operation of a democracy, the management of Federal information resources should protect the public's right of access to government information.

  • The open and efficient exchange of scientific and technical government information, subject to applicable national security controls and the proprietary rights of others, fosters excellence in scientific research and effective use of Federal research and development funds.

In addition to these principles setting forth the importance of public exchange and access to government information, Circular A-130 also contains policies that describe how to avoid restrictive practices. A government agency should avoid establishing or permitting others to have arrangements that are exclusive, restricted, or otherwise interfere with making information available on a timely and equitable basis. That does not imply, however, that a person or entity may not take government information, repackage it, and make it available commercially. Indeed, that is the desired outcome—that a variety of products be developed from the underlying government information. But, generally speaking, government information cannot be transferred to one corporation or private entity without also making it available to others.

Government agencies also operate with the understanding that public access to government information is important and that they should avoid unnecessary restrictions or regulations limiting such access. For example, an agency must avoid charging a fee or royalties on the reuse, resale, or dissemination of government information. Indeed, Circular A-130 encourages agencies to set user fees for government information products at the marginal cost of dissemination. (The Circular provides that the calculation of user charges must exclude the costs associated with the original collection and processing of the information.) As a result, agencies often post information on the Internet, where the marginal cost of dissemination is zero.

The U.S. Copyright Act affects another area of public information policy. Under Section 105 of the copyright law, works created by federal government employees within

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