Hands Off! That Fact Is Mine

“Imagine doing a Google search for a phone number, weather report or sports score. The results page would be filled with links to various sources of information. But what if someone typed in keywords and no results came back?

That’s the scenario critics are painting of a new bill wending its way through Congress that would let certain companies own facts, and exact a fee to access them. Ostensibly, the Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act (HR3261) makes it a crime for anyone to copy and redistribute a substantial portion of data collected by commercial database companies and list publishers. But critics say the bill would give the companies ownership of facts — stock quotes, historical health data, sports scores and voter lists. The bill would restrict the kinds of free exchange and shared resources that are essential to an informed citizenry, opponents say.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill and the commerce committee is expected to review it on Thursday.”