[LINK] Crown Copyright [Was Re: Lundy:Citizen-centric ...

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Thu Mar 3 16:50:29 AEDT 2011

At 16:11 +1100 3/3/11, Tom Koltai wrote:
>This has always puzzled me...
>Quote/ [From the above URL speech]
>Finally we are seeing more and more government data released under
>permissive copyright licences, and in useful formats for people to use
>and mashup up. Many government document and cultural assets have been
>released under a Creative Commons licence, and in fact only last year we
>released our first Creative Commons By Attribution licensed Federal
>Budget, which is a world first and something we are very proud of.
>How can a government elected by the people for the people and paid for
>by the people claim copyright over the actions and data of Government?

The vesting of copyright in the Crown is a position of long standing.

(Blame Queen Anne, by all means.  I doubt if she appreciated *any* of 
the implications of the Statute commonly named after her).

Because it's a position of long standing, government lawyers can 
stand behind the mythology that the sky will fall in if anything is 

During the government-as-business-enterprise phase a few years back, 
it was leveraged off to sell back to taxpayers content that they'd 
already paid for.

ABS was one ghastly example.  But ASIC's registration data, mapping 
data, geology-related data, are all operated under variants of that 

There are arguments for *some* data to be subject to cost-recovery, 
and copyright can be used as an element of that.

(Think about data arising from 'natural monopoly' collection 
activities, such as charts of the sea-bed.  Really valuable data like 
magnetic-field variations might attract an investor, but not the 
really dull stuff).

If the government spends the money to collect it, in a single 
coherent and not-very-wasteful process, and if it charges a sensible 
fee to intending users (or maybe even sensible fees to a sufficiently 
large number of sufficiently competitive value-adding licensees), 
everyone might win.

The last decade has seen a long slow battle to force conservative 
public servants to the table to discuss the need for some kind of 
open-content licence, or more likely licences.  (There are many forms 
of content, and different considerations arise.  Think statutes, 
think databases, think images, think metadata, think special 
categories like, well, copyright licences).

Government lawyers have got in the way of policy development at every step.

The Commonwealth Copyright Administration (CCA) has been an absolute 
farce, avoiding even a semblance of consultation on the matter:

DEST as was, DEEWR as is, spent many years completely unhelpful to 
the education sector, and formed their own special kind of blockage 
to progress (denizens of the link list included).  As an example, 
attempts to get a framework in place so that even informational 
pages, at places like the Bureau of Meteorology, could be marked with 
something more constructive than 'Crown Copyright - All Rights 
Reserved', met with stoic resistance.

Fortunately, the doors are gradually being battered down.  eResearch 
and Gov 2.0 have been but some of the recent rounds of attack.

Declaration.  I chaired a 'collaborative federalism' / dot.gov 
company in the VET sector from 2000 to 2006.  We had open-content 
licences in the field before Creative Commons was even formed.  The 
incomprehension and the apathy we expected, and we had strategic and 
tactical plans to address them.  The sometimes mindless and sometimes 
bloody-minded obstructionism was a surprise and a nasty one.

Roger Clarke                                 http://www.rogerclarke.com/

Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
                    Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au                http://www.xamax.com.au/

Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre      Uni of NSW
Visiting Professor in Computer Science    Australian National University

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