The Dissemination War

By Sherwood, Diane | Information Today, January 1989 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Dissemination War

Sherwood, Diane, Information Today

The Dissemination War

Where is the line between the federal government's mandate to disseminate information to the public and its equally important obligation to avoid entering into unfair competition with private sector vendors? Currently, the middle turf is being fiercely fought over as agency after agency automates its internal information.

A noncontroversial example of a recent automation project illustrates why the private sector is nervous as it watches agencies convert cumbersome magnetic tapes into online retrieval capabililties and/or optical storage. The National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) recently replaced about 20 magnetic tapes with a single CD-ROM disc. Because distribution costs have dropped and because users no longer need an expensive mainframe--just a PC and a CD-Rom reader--the user community has increased considerably.

Linda Helgerson, editor, Cd Data Reports, states that nine percent of all CD-ROM information offerings are sold by the government. What's to prevent that percentage from leaping up and up, turning the federal government into an electronic-publishing, industry-swallowing shark? Jack Simpson, president, Mead Data Central, verbalized industry concern here recently at the 20th Annual Convention of the Information Industry Association. According to Simpson, the government could turn into a monopoly because it controls the source of information and can establish whatever price it wishes, even subsidizing the cost of distribution.

Two official decisions are expected soon, both of which are overdue, and, when they are forthcoming, will send important signals to government agencies facing decisions on how to automate data. The first is a decision from yet another Judge Green--this one Joyce Hens Green of the Washington, D.C. Federal District Court on a suit and countersuit, the major one brought by the International Computaprint Corporation (ICC) against the Department of Commerce as a Freedom of Information Act appeal.

The cases involve The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), which back in the early 80s, sought a non-budget line item approach to verifying and automating its trademark records. A number of companies, with Thompson and Thompson now the dominant player in their merged entity, accepted the PTO's request. Thompson and Thompson proceeded to verify the trademark data from its own records, which go back 60 years, and to convert that data to magnetic tape. Thompson and Thompson gave back the material in an enhanced form to the Trademark Office and marketed the online trademark information products. International Computaprint Corporation sued because it claimed, under the Freedom of Information Act, that the magnetic tapes should be made available to the public. Thompson and Thompson replied that the tapes are proprietary because of added-value data as well as retrieval capabilities. Furthermore, they have an exclusive agreement for use of "backfiles" (those filed before 1980) through 1996. Only the paper records, Thompson and Thompson argues, are non-proprietary; otherwise, how would they be assured of compensation for all their efforts? All Thompson and Thompson wants at this point is exclusive commercial use to the "backfiles" until April of 1990, six years earlier than the agreed upon exclusivity date.

The is virtually agreement across the board--from government to industry watchers to attorneys--that the PTO/Thompson and Thompson situation is a mess. "The major issues are at stake for the entire information industry," says Joe Petrillo, attorney for ICC, "and Judge Green's decision will have a major impact; it is a very important case." The first issue is whether or not an agency can satisfy its obligation to disseminate information by insisting on hard copy when magnetic media is available. Closely related is the second issue: whether or not an agency can make a deal with one private vendor and thereby tie up its database, according to Petrillo.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

The Dissemination War


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.