Public data generated or commissioned by government bodies is becoming an increasingly important part of the public sphere — from new forms of civic participation, journalism, transparency and accountability to new opportunities for innovation and growth. The Open Knowledge Foundation is joining a band of civil society organizations – including Sunlight Foundation, Joshua Tauberer/, Public Knowledge and Electronic Frontier Foundation, to name a few – as signees of a request to making public government data “license free” in the United States.

As open data guidelines evolve to meet current practices, including new goals from the White House and the increasing role of government contractors in the production of public government data, it is essential that U.S. federal government agencies have the tools to preserve the United States’ long legal tradition of ensuring that public information created by the federal government is exempt from U.S. copyright and remains free for everyone to use without restriction.

Leading open data standards and principles, such as the 8 Principles of Open Government Data, have established that the absence of restrictions on the reuse of government information is a core part of promoting good government and entrepreneurial innovation. When there are no restrictions on the reuse of government data, the data is said to be “license-free”. To the greatest extent possible, we strongly believe U.S. public government data should be “license-free”.

The document containing the request provides language to affix to data publications so that they may meet, and/or make it clear that they meet, the criteria of the “license-free” principle. The language is intended for U.S. federal government agencies, and you can read the request here.

(Note: This post has been updated with links to similar statements of support.)

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Christian Villum is an open data and open everything advocate, disruptive-technology geek, project bootstrapper & electronic music buff. He lives in Copenhagen, Denmark, and has a background in media and culture entrepreneurship, community creation and hacktivism.