In December, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) will consider a treaty on Data-base Extraction Rights. This treaty, in its current form, could drastically curtail the public's access to public domain documents stored in "data bases."
This treaty affects all of us - from the genealogist searching for 200-year-old wills stored in state archives to the private investor obtaining investment information from the SEC's EDGAR database to the lawyer who wants to retrieve information from the U.S. Code to, even, the reporter searching the Internet for background material.The treaty provisions call for a $500,000 fine and five-year jail term for persons who attempt to circumvent "data-base management information" and could give vendors a monopoly on data created at public expense.
This is not a plea to put the private data-base vendors out of business but an appeal to use common sense - and determine a way that the interests of both private companies and the public be served. Under the proposed treaty, the power would go squarely to the private companies - leaving the vast benefits of easily accessible information removed from all of us.
The public can make its opinion about this treaty known to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which has called for comment. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, but time is running out.
W. David Samuelsen
Salt Lake City