Are content on government websites covered by copyright?

Are content on government websites covered by copyright? This is a question many website owners and bloggers have been asking for long.

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The answer is YES and NO. Why?

“In general, the content on a federal government website is not protected by copyright...if the content is created by an employee of the agency publishing the site as part of his or her normal duties,” said Richard Chapo, an internet lawyer located in San Diego, California who has been providing legal services to online businesses for more than a decade.

Chapo pertains to United States federal government websites only. However, we believe his statement can also be applied to government websites of the Republic of the Philippines.

If the content of a government website was made by a third-party individual or company under contract, Chapo said “the content on the site is protected by copyright” and, therefore, cannot be used by anyone.

We’ve browsed Philippine government websites that contain a copyright status, among them the web portals of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) and National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM).

The copyright claims of these agencies, we believe, refers to site design, not the articles as we’re certain they have personnel who write their own press releases, news updates and announcements.

What we’re trying to say is that website admins should state the scope of their copyright claims clearly, so anyone who has intention to copy and share content that’s supposed to be public will not hesitate to do so.

The “best approach” though, Chapo advised, is to “contact the agency and ask for permission to use the content.”