Open access to Government information is a key element of the open government discussion, both in policy and practice terms.

Baden Appleyard shares his experience in developing and applying the Australian Government’s Open Access and Licensing Framework, and highlights the opportunities and challenges faced in opening up information from Governments as well as public research bodies through licensing options such as Creative Commons.

The thought of applying a logo to a document and a link to a plain English deed is a really big shift… it’s going to take some time… it’s a bit of a slow burn.

About Baden Appleyard

Baden is the National Programme Director of AusGOAL, the Australian Government’s Open Access and Licensing Framework, which provides support and guidance to all levels of government, government agencies and the research sector to facilitate open access to publicly funded information.

He holds degrees in law and commerce, in addition to tertiary qualifications in management, and is a Barrister of the Supreme Court of Queensland and of the High Court of Australia.

Baden was a Principal Research Fellow with the Faculty of Law at the Queensland University of Technology from 2007–2008. During this time, he managed Project 3.05, part of an Australia-wide initiative co-sponsored by the CRC for Spatial Information which provided assistance to underpin the legal and policy framework development of a Queensland Government Information Licensing Framework (GILF), the predecessor of AusGOAL. He currently has responsibility for the development and implementation of AusGOAL and related copyright, contractual and administrative law issues (e.g. FOI and Privacy).

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Baden’s ‘Cheat Sheet’

…of commonly-heard justifications / excuses to refuse to release or restrictively licence (environmental) data:

The following are numbered but are in no particular order.

1. I have a research paper that I am yet to write and publish, so I’m not releasing my data until then.

2. I have to collect more data before I can release the data

3. We are concerned about data quality

4. We don’t want a consultant (we have engaged) to take this data for free and use it for their other clients

5. We have legislative restrictions on the release of this data

6. This data carries privacy restrictions that mean we cannot release it (where it is more than arguable that no privacy restriction exists, or where they have failed to consider anonymising the data, which may still provide an important resource for some).

7. Its ours and nobody else’s

8. Our funding agreements prohibit release of the data

9. The IP is owned by someone else

10. It was not collected with distribution outside the department in mind.

11. We would release it but it has to go through our departmental process first (only to discover that there is no departmental process)

12. We cannot apply an open licence because open licences are not permitted in our government policy (where in that case the Auditor-General lamented that there was in fact no government policy on licensing and information management. That was put to the agency whom responded by saying that it still meant that an open licence wasn’t permitted)

13. We don’t want people to commercialise this data or re-distribute it because we are the point of truth.

14. We don’t want to release this data under an open licence (that permits commercial reuse) because we don’t want commercial operators to sell it, where we provide it for free.

15. We don’t want to release this data under an open licence because we might want charge for it. (despite the fact that the department was externally funded to collect it and the costs already recovered)

16. We don’t know whom owns the copyright

17. We don’t know what licence to choose / don’t want to apply a copyright licence because we don’t think copyright subsists in the data

18. We don’t want to release the data because we are building a new portal for this and related datasets (restrictively licensed) and we want people to be able to download it from our new portal (where the portal wasn’t launched for 12 months)

19. If we release the data it will embarrass our minister / director general / chief executive / secretary (under most amended FOI law in Australia, embarrassment to government is not a valid reason to refuse release)

20. The community wouldn’t understand the data/interpret it correctly if we released it, therefore we will only licence it restrictively to hydrologist/surveyor/scientist (insert profession)

21. We won’t release it because we don’t have a longer term budget to maintain updates to the data.

22. We won’t release it because it’s out of date

23. We won’t release it because the metadata is inaccurate

24. We won’t release it / only restrictively licence (to government, in the case of an NRM) because we have agreements with farmers that we won’t identify them. (where the data was collected with funding from government)

25. We can’t openly licence because we are restricted by nested IP belonging to the CSIRO

26. We don’t want to release because the data may be used to ground a patent application

27. You can have the data but you will have to make an FOI application. (subsequently, the applicant received the data under FOI but it was released without a licence, and accordingly defaulted to all rights reserved Crown copyright)

28. Before we release it / license it to you, we want to know what you want the data for.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

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