Friday, October 08, 2010

Australian Government sets default copyright to Creative Commons by Attribution

Yesterday was a historic day for Australian intellectual property rights.

Ann Steward, the Australian Government CIO, announced that the Australian Attorney-General's Department had released an amended Statement of Intellectual Property Principles for Australian Government Agencies.

The amended version endorsed one of the Gov 2.0 Taskforce's recommendations - that the default copyright position for public sector information be CC BY rather than the existing Crown Copyright, which has been in place for over a hundred years.

This change is likely to get little media attention or fanfare, however it denotes a seismic shift in Australian government. From now on almost all information that is released publicly by the government will be legally reusable, modifiable and mashup-able by citizens and corporations without the need to pay money or ask for legal permission.

This unlocks a potential enormous economic driver for Australia. In the UK the value of open data has been estimated at 6 billion pounds per year, although it might take some time to realise gains like this.

Also historic - though maybe less so - is that this major shift in government policy was announced on a blog.

So what is Creative Commons licensing?
It is a form of copyright that is more liberal and flexible than old-style copyright regimes, however still allows organisations and individuals to manage the reuse of their intellectual property.

Creative Commons is recognised in over thirty countries and has already become the default position for UK government data. The US, New Zealand and Canada have also made steps towards adopting Creative Commons as their default government copyright license and the OECD has recommended that public sector data be made public in a raw and reusable form, licensed under standard open content licenses and priced as close as possible to zero.

More information is at the Creative Commons Australia website.

And what does it mean for federal government agencies?
When releasing future public sector information into the public domain, federal government agencies must use a default position of a CC BY (Creative Commons By Attribution) license. They may only use a more restrictive license after a process of ‘due diligence and on a case-by-case basis’.


  1. Ironically, the copyright notice on the AG's site linkrf to from the statement still puts restrictions in place beyond the CC-BY discussed.

  2. Hi Craig, a better (or additional) link is to the CC and Government page on the CC Australia site at
    see also, the extensive guide on use of CC licences in Government at
    The importance of the announcement should not be overstated, as agencies such as Australian Bureau of Statistics and Geoscience Australia have been publishing most (if not all) of their online content under CC-BY licences for more than 2 years.

  3. Hi Anne,

    Agency-level support is one thing, whole-of-government mandate is another.

    This is a rewrite of the default copyright for public information from the Australian government - I don't think I overstated :)