On Wedneday 24 June 2009, the Victorian Government released the Report of the Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee on the Inquiry into Improving Access to Victorian Public Sector Information and Data.
The Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee (‘the Committee’) was tasked with inquiring into, considering and reporting to the Victorian Parliament on the potential application of open content and open source licensing models, including Creative Commons, to Victorian Government Information.
The Committee made three key recommendations for access to and reuse of PSI:
1) That the Victorian Government develop an Information Management Framework for the purpose of facilitating access to and reuse of Victorian Government information by government, citizens and businessess. The default position of the Framework should be that all PSI produced by Victorian Government departments from now on be made available at no or marginal cost.
2) That the Victorian Government make use of the Creative Commons licensing model for the release of PSI. The Committee was told that Creative Commons licences can be appropriately used for up to 85% of government information and data.
3) That the Victorian Government establish an online directory where the public can search for and obtain information about PSI held by the Victorian Government. Depending on the access conditions the Government has attached to specific PSI, people will be able to download information and data directly, or make contact with people in the Victorian Government to discuss access conditions.
This is an immensely significant report, which has been noted internationally including on the ePSIplatform. In particular, the recommendation that the Victorian Government use CC licensing is very encouraging.
Key Recommendations of the Report –
Recommendation 1: That the Victorian Government release a public statement indicating that it endorses open access as the default position for the management of its public sector information.
Recommendation 2: That the Victorian Government develop a whole-of-government Information Management Framework (IMF).
Recommendation 8: That the Victorian Government encourage as part of its funding agreements with research agencies and higher education institutions that research results be deposited in open access journals or repositories.
Recommendation 11: That the Victorian Government develop a consistent copyright licensing system for use across all government departments.
Recommendation 13: That exclusive arrangements not be entered into for licensing Victorian Government public sector information, excepting exclusive rights necessary to protect the public interest.
Recommendation 14: That the Victorian Government adopt the Creative Commons licensing model as the default licensing system for the Information Management Framework.
Recommendation 15: That the Victorian Government adopt a hybrid public sector information licensing model comprising Creative Commons and a tailored suite of licences for restricted materials.
Recommendation 16: That the Victorian Government develop specific guidelines for the pricing of public sector information (PSI), emphasising the provision of PSI at no cost or marginal cost.
Recommendation 21: That the Victorian Government require wherever possible that its information and data be stored in open standard formats.
Key Findings of the Committee –
Finding 1: Quantitative data about economic benefits arising from increased commercial exploitation of public sector information (PSI) does not currently provide clear guidance for policy. There is a growing view, however, that new commercial enterprises will emerge as access to PSI is improved.
Finding 2: Improved access to and utilisation of public sector information may result in economic benefits for the Victorian Government through greater efficiency in the allocation of resources and more informed decision-making and policy development processes.
Finding 5: There is substantial potential for spatial data held by the public sector to contribute to new commercial and public services and research. There are also significant opportunities for access to spatial data held as public sector information to be improved.
Finding 6: The proliferation and interdependence of patents can act as a barrier to innovation and the delivery of new products to the market.
Finding 7: The existence of copyright in government-owned materials does not necessarily limit the extent to which they can be made publicly available. Copyright and in particular Crown copyright may, however, limit opportunities for re-use of those materials.
Finding 8: A lack of standardised licensing practices between and within governments can act as a barrier to public sector information access.
Finding 9: The removal of copyright from Victorian Government public sector information (PSI) is unlikely to simplify access to and re-use of PSI. Access to and re-use of PSI will be best facilitated by issuing licences in accordance with existing copyright provisions.
Finding 10: Open content licences provide governments with a simple and effective mechanism to facilitate enhanced access to and re-use of copyright protected public sector information in a digital, online environment.
Finding 11: Creative Commons is a comprehensive licensing system that can be applied to both online and offline materials.
Finding 13: It is likely that Creative Commons licences can be appropriately applied to around 85 per cent of government public sector information.
Finding 14: The application of geographical restrictions to public sector information (PSI) licences will be difficult to enforce and may compromise the re-use value of government PSI.
Finding 15: Issuing attribution-only Creative Commons licences will assist to maintain the integrity of Victorian Government public sector information while ensuring access and re-use opportunities are maximised.
Finding 19: There is an emerging view that the application of no cost or marginal cost pricing to public sector information will increase access to and re-use of such information, with the potential to stimulate productivity and economic growth.
Finding 20: There is growing recognition that government should have a limited role in adding value to public sector information (PSI) for commercial purposes. The value of PSI should be enhanced through private sector activity for the creation of new products and services.
Finding 21: The provision of public sector information in open standard formats is a key component of open access.