Having been an observer of public policy towards Crown copyright for a number of years now it is interesting to see just how far government has moved over the past decade in its stance on the issue. What began as a fairly entrenched viewpoint that Crown copyright was a necessary instrument of control over the process of official publication, seems now to have moved forward to a position that permits more radical thinking about the policy. Originally the enforcement of Crown copyright was seen as a means of maintaining control over the publication of the material, with a licensing policy for re-use and added-value exploitation by the private sector publishing industry. The private sector itself had long argued that the policy diminished prospects for the proper exploitation of official information. This it argued had had a detrimental effect, both for the industry itself and the degree to which the information might be used for the benefit of the national economy. Government began to listen to these arguments but HM Treasury consistently maintained the need for departments and agencies to recover costs and in some cases obtain profits from the distribution of official information. It was seen very much as a resource belonging to cost centres that should be exploited. Since the fall of the former Conservative Government it has become clear that those engaged in this debate are no longer as committed to these trenchant positions as they once were. Instead it would seem that a more open debate is underway within a broader reassessment of the nature, organization and functioning of the public services. This article explores the progress in that debate and assesses where the policy now stands
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