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Information access

Information access is a term used to describe an area of research at the intersection of informatics, Information Science, Language Technology, Computer Science, and library science.

The objective of the various research efforts in information access is to simplify and effectivise for human users to access and further process large and unwieldy amounts of data and information.

Technologies applicable to the general area are e.g. Information Retrieval, Text Mining, Machine Translation, and Text Categorisation.

In discussions on free access to information and on information policy, information access is understood as concerning ensuring free and closed access to information. Information access covers many issues such as copyright, open source, privacy, and security.

Provision was made in copyright and patent law for information in the public domain. However the extent of the public domain has been under attack in recent years, as database vendors expand the copyright and contract laws to eliminate concepts such as fair use. UCITA, the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act has been defeated in most jurisdictions, but restrictions on the public domain still exist in more recent laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Librarians have always advocated for free and open access to government information. Groups such as the American Library Association, the American Association of Law Libraries, Ralph Nader's Taxpayers Assets Project have advocated for free access to legal information. The vendor neutral citation movement in the legal field is working to ensure that courts will accept citations from cases on the web which do not have the traditional (copyrighted) page numbers from the West Publishing company. There is a worldwide Free Access to Law Movement which advocates free access to legal information. The Wired Magazine Article Who Owns The Law is a good introduction to the access to legal information issue.

Post 9-11 acts such as the Patriot Act, in the interest of security has led to restrictions on access to certain types of information as well as an increased government attempts at surveillance of individual's private information, such as their library records.

[edit] Links to free software

Free software takes the approaches of openly accessible information and applies them to software code. Based on the tenets of open information practices, free and open source software takes a freedom based approach to software development and maintenance. The free software movement has impacted areas such as software and free access to scholarly journals. Lawrence Lessig, himself a board member of Free Software Foundation advocates free software and argues that computer code can regulate conduct in much the same way that legal codes do.

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