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Crown Solicitor's Office

Sharing resources online: When is a Creative Commons licence right for my agency?

Rosa O'Connor, CSO Solicitor

NSW government agencies are increasingly sharing a wide range of resources online, including material incorporated within government reports and databases. While at first glance such material may appear to be government material, it is not uncommon for government reports and databases to incorporate third party works, derivative works and aggregate data from a range of sources. It is thus crucial for agencies to consider copyright issues at an early stage in any new Open Government initiatives.

The Office of Finance and Services has endorsed the use of the Creative Commons Attributions Licence (CC-BY 4.0) by NSW government agencies publishing crown copyright material intended for general circulation. See DFS Circular C2013-06 Open Data Policy available at http://arp.nsw.gov.au/dfs-c2013-06-open-data-policy. In circumstances where it may not be appropriate for an agency to use the CC-BY 4.0 licence, the agency should consider whether one of the other eleven Creative Commons licences may be suitable.

It is critical that agencies ensure that any material published pursuant to a Creative Commons licence is, in its entirety, crown copyright material or that the material has been obtained pursuant to a Creative Commons licence or a direct licence that permits publication pursuant to the relevant Creative Commons licence. The IP clauses in most standard licence agreements are not sufficiently broad to permit publication pursuant to a Creative Commons licence and should be carefully reviewed prior to being relied on for that purpose.

A pro-active approach by agencies to the management of IP will assist to minimise the copyright fees payable by the NSW government and an agency's exposure to risk. Key IP management techniques include:

  • ensuring that appropriate IP clauses are included in all agreements with contractors (where possible it is preferable for the Crown to be granted ownership of IP rights in all deliverables);
  • developing agency specific IP management guidelines;
  • including appropriate copyright statements and disclaimers on all agency websites (including tailored statements for specific pages where necessary) and periodically reviewing and updating such statements; 
  • identifying key areas of risk to the agency, including units or personnel likely to use third party material in publications or online (such as marketing, IT and media units and personnel with the authority to upload material to public websites) and conducting IP awareness sessions with identified units and personnel;
  • auditing agency websites on a regular basis to ensure compliance with the agency's IP guidelines and to remove unlicensed and out of date material.

The Crown Solicitor can assist your agency to adopt sound IP management practices through the provision of advice, development of agency specific guidelines and the provision of IP training courses.

For further information, please contact Rosa O'Connor on tel: (02) 8224 5363.