Text size: A A A

Victoria embraces Creative Commons in open government push

Victorian public service agencies are being encouraged to release information under a Creative Commons 4.0 licence, as part of new intellectual property guidelines released this week by the Department of Treasury and Finance.

Traditionally, government documents in Victoria have usually been released as “all rights reserved” or without a stated arrangement, both of which restrict public use of the documents without permission being given by the agency. Generally a reader would be able to view the material and to print a copy for themselves, but it would be a breach of copyright for them to reproduce, email, re-publish or commercialise the material.

But the new Intellectual Property Guidelines for the Victorian Public Sector document argues government departments should err on the side of releasing information for public use:

“This historical position is inconsistent with the IP Policy Intent to grant rights to IP in a manner that maximises the public interest. For a great deal of the State’s copyright material, it is inefficient to expect the public to seek permission to make reasonable uses of material, and it is also inefficient for agencies to respond to these requests.

“Accordingly, under the IP Policy, appropriate copyright material should be released under terms allowing flexible public re-use without further permission.”

Prior to the current IP policy, introduced in August 2012, the government took a relatively restrictive approach. The only policy document in place was the 1991 Crown Copyright Guidelines, which required anyone seeking to republish a government document to seek the approval of the Attorney-General — a time consuming process for both parties.

The policy since 2012 has encouraged agencies to be flexible in their approach to granting IP rights, but did not give guidance as to how this should be done. The new document’s endorsement of CC 4.0 means there’s a clear process for the release of copyright.

The state budget, along with other documents, is expected to be released under Creative Commons licensing, giving app developers, publishers, schools and others the ability to use the information more freely, in a win for open government advocates.

In coming months, the Department of Treasury and Finance will contact departments individually to encourage the take up of Creative Commons.

Author Bio

David Donaldson

David Donaldson is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Melbourne. He's previously written for The Guardian and Crikey and holds a masters in international relations.