Free Our Data: the blog

A Guardian Technology campaign for free public access to data about the UK and its citizens


Australia moves to Creative Commons licensing for PSI; what chance for the UK?

This week’s Guardian Technology looks at what’s happening in Australia, which started out with crown copyright but now…

When you’re dealing with a flooding emergency in the middle of the worst drought for many years, the last thing you need is barriers to the sharing of geographical and meteorological information.

Yet that’s the situation faced by Australia. The authorities’ response is to consider the widespread adoption of Creative Commons licences for public-sector information.

Last month, the government of Queensland approved the use of Creative Commons, which allows free re-use of copyright material subject to certain conditions, as part of a new licensing framework. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth (federal) government is expected to give the green light to creative commons in a new set of guidelines for the management of the government’s intellectual property.

The new Australian policy will be watched with interest by Britain’s free-data movement. Historically, Australia is a pioneer of free data: a 1968 law exempted most data produced by the federal government from copyright protection.

Of course, we haven’t gotten near to the latter here in the UK, 40 years later, but anything would be a start. Even CC licensing (most commonly seen today on the photography site Flickr).

However – as in the UK – [government] organisations can and do charge for certain kinds of data. Another complication is that licensing regimes vary from state to state.

One result, says Baden Appleyard, a lawyer and research fellow at Queensland University of Technology, is “confusion, lack of interoperability and unnecessary expense in the provision and re-use of public-sector information”.

Does that sound at all familiar? What’s encouraging about Australia is that it’s actually taking steps to do something about it, following a study that was carried out last year into the effectiveness of government policies on data licensing.

Here in the UK, there was a study carried out last year – which looked at the trading funds model. We’re still waiting for the Ministry of Justice to publish it…

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