ACAT FW: Conflicting instructions in Bib Formats about ETDs being state government publications (OCLC’s answer: yes, they are

Posting to Autocat

On 10/28/2014 3:51 PM, MULLEN Allen wrote:

I have no horse in this race (i.e. I really don’t care either way), but it would seem from the definition provided by James that, if it is published “at Government expense,” it is a government publication.

BTW, this definition does not mention anything requiring that these be “written under the auspices of any government agency.”

Well, I thought that the part about “written under the auspices of a government agency” sort of goes without saying. For a government document to exist, I would think that a government agency must be involved in it somewhere along the way. But maybe I’m wrong.

If we are to determine an item’s status as a government document not by those who created it, but by the management of the archive it happens to be placed in (i.e. is it a state agency?), I find that very troubling. Is it true that

“… if it is published “at Government expense,” it is a government publication…”

means that just because something has been placed in a digital archive that has some part of the budget paid for by a state agency, that this makes it “published at government expense” and therefore a government document?

I find it difficult to believe that an item can be determined to be a government document based not on who wrote it, but on the archive where it has been placed. If that is the case, then it would become a “government document” and there are genuine legal consequences as to copyright.

This is why I pointed out the page at that discusses the legal aspects of government documents based on each state.

Therefore, based on this Wikipedia page (which may be wrong of course), it would seem that an item in a digital archive in California that has at least substantial control from a state university, then that item would be public domain because “… [the] government may not claim copyright on public records”. But the situation would seem to be different with Minnesota.

I can’t believe that the fact that a document is in a certain archive has anything to do with what rights are connected with it. Would someone who has a dissertation that they have worked for years on willingly put it into an electronic archive at e.g. Berkeley (state university) and agree that it is a government document and they “… may not claim copyright”?

I don’t think it is just a theoretical argument. It is already a contentious topic, e.g. in this article from the Chronicle it says clearly “Don’t make your dissertation available online.”

An “official” statement from the library community that a dissertation in a state repository is a government document, and as such, its rights are determined by the respective state government, gives me pause. And I don’t think it’s right.

This is something that could blow up in everybody’s faces. I think this should be discussed, with legal help if possible.