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University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series

Faculty of Law, UNSW
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Greenleaf, Graham; Bond, Catherine --- "Re-use Rights and Australia’s Unfinished PSI Revolution" [2011] UNSWLRS 37

Last Updated: 31 October 2011

Re-use Rights and Australia’s Unfinished PSI Revolution

Graham Greenleaf, University of New South Wales
Catherine Bond, University of New South Wales

This paper is available for download at


This article has been published as Greenleaf G and Bond C ‘Open Data and re-use of Public Sector Information’ [2011] Informatica e diritto – Rivista internazionale, n. 1-2, 341-69, ESI, Naples; it is an abbreviated version of G Greenleaf and C Bond ‘Open government works (Open PSI)’, a Chapter of Revitalising Australia’s Copyright Public Domain, Sydney University Press, to be published 2012.. This article may also be referenced as [2011]UNSWLRS 37.


An understanding of the re-use of public sector information in Australia starts from the fact that the provisions for Crown Copyright in the Copyright Act 1968 means that no PSI (including legislation and cases) is available for re-use without permission, and there are nine different regimes (federal, plus States and Territories) governing re-use permissions. Since 2008 this situation is changing rapidly, with a series of reports leading to a federal government policy that, when it licences PSI the default licence will be a Creative Commons BY licence (requiring only attribution). However, we argue that this is incomplete, because there is as yet no requirement that PSI be licensed when it is made freely available to the public (in which case Crown Copyright still applies). The State of Queensland has taken a similar approach, but it is arguable (but not certain) that it has ‘joined the dots’ so that all PSI made available to the public should, in default, be under a Creative Commons BY licence. In both jurisdictions Information Commissioners with a new pro-active role in relation to freedom of information may facilitate the transition to a ‘re-use culture’ in the public sector. In the other seven jurisdictions the position is still evolving, but the federal and Queensland practices are likely to be influential. This is a remarkable achievement in a few years for Creative Commons Australia, and for the development of Australian public policy.

Despite these very positive developments in Australian policies and practices, we argue that liberal licensing regimes are not enough, and that there is also a need to reform Australia’s antiquated Crown Copyright by abolishing it for some categories of PSI such as legislation and related information, limiting its duration in other cases of government publications, and limiting the duration of copyright in unpublished government works.

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