There’s a fair bit of excitement going on about using the Creative Commons copyright license as opposed to the traditional Crown Copyright license.
The Crown Copyright license is defined within the Copyright Act (1994) and can usually be found on Government webpages, looking like this (taken from e.govt.nz):
Except where stated, the information on this website is subject to Crown copyright and maintained by the State Services Commission. However, it may be reproduced for personal or in-house use without formal permission or charge. Information on this website must not be used in a commercial context unless written permission has been given by the State Services Commission. Where any material from this website is quoted in any context, it must be sourced to the website of the e-government programme of the State Services Commission and state the date of publication.
For material on this website that is protected by Crown copyright and maintained by another government organisation, authorisation to reproduce such material must be obtained from that organisation.
For material on this website that is identified as being subject to the copyright of a third party, authorisation to reproduce such material must be obtained from that copyright holder.
The Crown Copyright normally lasts for either 50 or 100 years, and in a few cases, only 25 years.
It’s a fairly permissive license; if you’re using it for non-commerical use then you can do whatever you please. Otherwise you’ll need to get permission from the agency in question.
Other uses not clear
If you’re planning on redistributing content covered by the Crown Copyright license, then it’s not clear what your responsibilities are, other than attribution. Are the recipients of your distribution efforts covered by this license or not? Do they have any obligations to attribute this content if they use it?
Enter Creative Commons
The Creative Commons license has many options for content creators to license their creations under.
They’re all listed here.
The closest Creative Commons license match to the Crown Copyright would be “Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives (by-nc-nd)“. This is also the most restrictive license offered by the Creative Commons.
At the other end of the scale is “Attribution (by)“, which allows people to “distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation”.
There are a total of 6 licenses which impose a variety of limitations on the use of the content.
The Creative Commons’ New Zealand website offers all 6 licenses in the New Zealand legal context, but they do not appear to be any different to the generic US-based licenses. Presumably then, there’s no legal loopholes or issues which could cause problems if Government agencies decided to adopt one or more of these.
I’m personally waiting for an official statement from the SSC regarding the use of the Creative Commons licenses for Crown content, but apparently Statistics New Zealand has already gone ahead and released data under one of these licenses.
For ‘open content’ to be released in any meaningful fashion, some form the Creative Commons idea needs to be adopted, since the standard Crown Copyright does not address redistribution and is poorly suited for content on the Internet.