Repackage Public Domain Government Material into Saleable Information Products
If you've heard of the possibility of creating an information product using
copyright-free government material, you may be unsure of the potential to get users to pay
for something that you accessed without charge. Here are answers to the questions many
people have about repackaging and selling public domain information created by the U.S.
government, along with three examples to get your creative juices flowing.
Common Concerns about Repurposing and Selling Public Domain Information
1. What is public domain government information and what do you have the right to do with it?
When the U.S. government creates or commissions information, it is paid for by federal
taxes and therefore owned by the taxpayers. Almost all the time, U.S. government
information is in the public domain and not copyrighted. (Exceptions to this rule carry a
copyright notice.) This means that anyone has the right to republish that information
however they please, as if they had researched and created it themselves. You have the
right to publish it exactly as is, change the format, chop it into smaller pieces, rewrite
it, combine it with other public domain or proprietary information or translate it - all
without charge and without needing to request permission.
2. If information is available free online, why would people pay for it?
Many people do not have the time or skills to find free information online. If you can
bring information of interest to them to their attention, they may be as willing to pay
for it as they do for other books, recordings, etc. This is especially true if you package
the material attractively, conveniently and understandably.
3. Do you need to tell people where the material came from?
That's up to you. In some cases, telling them of the government origin of the
information greatly boosts its credibility. Sometimes you may want to let buyers know that
the content is available for free but in hard-to-find or hard-to-use locations. The three
examples below make it clear why shoppers might not care about that at all.
Repurposing Three Types of Government Information
1. Foreign language courses. Over the years, the U.S. government has financed the
creation of self-study courses in dozens of languages for the use of government personnel
headed overseas. Many private companies now sell courses based on the original recordings
and printed study guides. Whereas originally they were distributed on cassette with an
accompanying paperback book, now you can purchase the very same courses as downloads or as
a colorfully packaged CD/book set.
There is still room for innovation in this arena. You could reorganize the lessons,
deliver them by subscription, sell them on a preloaded audio player, make them part of a
paid membership site, provide them as a free bonus for travel products, add images to
transform them into movies, change the content so it's especially suitable for children, etc.