Yesterday's inauguration of President Barack Obama also brought with it a complete overhaul of the whitehouse.gov site. While there has been some media coverage of the change (including the appointment of a Director of New Media for the White House), it is worth looking at the fine print by contrasting the copyright notices found on the White House site and the Prime Minister of Canada's site. The Whitehouse.gov site adopts the following:
Pursuant to federal law, government-produced materials appearing on this site are not copyright protected. The United States Government may receive and hold copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.
Except where otherwise noted, third-party content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Visitors to this website agree to grant a non-exclusive, irrevocable, royalty-free license to the rest of the world for their submissions to Whitehouse.gov under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
In other words, no copyright in the government-produced materials and a Creative Commons license that permits both commercial and non-commercial usage (with attribution) for third-party materials. That is as permissive as it gets – no real restrictions or requirements to obtain permission, which means that the public has both access and the right to use the materials on the Whitehouse.gov site as they see fit.
Now consider the Prime Minister of Canada's copyright notice: