Re: WEST-THOMSON- DOJ Lette

From: Steven D. Jamar <sjamar[_at_]law.howard.edu>
Date: Tue, 17 Sep 1996 10:08:28 -0400

> On 09/14/96, sjamar[_at_]law.howard.edu (Steve Jamar) said:
> >
> > Well, it seems to me that there is likely an implied license, if not an
> > explicit one, for dissemination to the public if you are commenting
> > publicly on public matters. But I think that many communications to the
> > government are not public and indeed are kept private for policy reasons.
> > (Promote candor, etc.)
>
> I agree that many communications to the government deserve
> confidentiality. Do you think copyright is the proper vehicle to
> provide that confidentiality?

No. In fact preservering confidentiality is not a purpose of copyright. Just the opposite - copyright is to encourage dissemination by insuring compensation for some uses and for copying and distributing. Though one no longer needs to publish a piece for copyright to attach, that idea behind it lingers.

My points are (1) even if copyrighted, fair use would allow some public access and (2) there are reasons to have some documents, submissions to the government not be public. The post to which I was responding had indicated a concern that the government would do things in secret. This is a legitimate concern, but must be balanced by other interests at stake, not the least of which is getting good information. My tax returns are in the possession of the government, but I think my privacy interests prevail over others who would snoop around them. The government does act based on my and other tax returns in many ways - but using extracted, statistical data.

Cheers,
Steve Jamar

Prof. Steven D. Jamar
Dir. LRW Program
Howard University School of Law
2900 Van Ness Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
sjamar[_at_]law.howard.edu voice: 202-806-8017 fax 202-806-8428 Received on Tue Sep 17 1996 - 14:17:34 GMT

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