Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0
Chapter 5: Managing public sector information (PSI) as a national resource
As policy makers and service deliverers, governments spend large sums collecting, analysing and transforming vast amounts of data, information and content. Governments are also collectors and custodians of material in the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) sector. Ultimately these institutions and their collections exist for public benefit.
Government has already invested in the production of this information. It thus exists as a national asset. Internationally and nationally, there is a growing recognition of the extent to which PSI is a resource that should be managed like any other valuable resource — that is to optimise its economic and social value. Of course information is ‘non-rival’: unlike physical goods and most services, sharing information does not diminish its value — in fact, as discussed earlier in the report, it will typically increase it.
The advent of the internet has vastly increased the value of this information because of the internet’s extraordinary capacity to disseminate it at minimal cost. Information on the internet can get to those people and places where it is most useful and facilitate its transformation in myriad ways both anticipated and unanticipated.
- 5.1: The principles of open access to PSI
- 5.2: Enhancing accountability
- 5.3: The economic value of PSI
- 5.4: The social value of PSI
- 5.5: Principles for PSI
- 5.6: Clearing the hurdles: freeing up PSI
- 5.7: The architecture of innovation on the internet
- 5.8: Licensing PSI as a national resource
- Recommendation 6: Make public sector information open, accessible and reusable
- Recommendation 7: Addressing issues in the operation of copyright
- 5.9: How widely should PSI principles apply?
- 5.10: Whole of government information publication scheme
- Recommendation 8: Information publication scheme
To be useful information must be findable. Then it must be practically useable. Generally speaking, where an asset already exists, the most economically efficient price to make it available to others is the marginal cost of doing so. In the age of the internet that marginal cost of distribution of PSI typically approaches zero. Thus in the absence of good reasons to the contrary, in the world of the internet, PSI should be free — that is distributed gratis, at zero price.167
However, in addition to free as in gratis, PSI should be free as in libre. To take some poetic licence with Richard Stallman’s colourful terminology, PSI should be ‘free as in beer’ and ‘free as in speech’.168 When information is released it creates new and powerful dynamics which can drive innovative use and reuse, allowing the commercial, research and community sectors to add value to it. Robinson et al outline some of the myriad ways data can be transformed to add value through Web 2.0 for instance via:
- advanced search
- discussion forums
- data visualisation
- machine automated content and topic analysis
- collaborative filtering
- crowdsourced correction or analysis.169
Such benefits will be facilitated by licensing PSI, on as liberal terms as possible. In this report, the ‘open access to PSI’ or ‘open PSI’ is used to refer to PSI which is freely available at zero price and on terms and formats that allow users to copy, use, transmit, reuse and transform the PSI from its original form.
The ‘Three Laws of Open Government Data’,170 developed by David Eaves, a member of the taskforce’s International Reference Group, seem apposite:
- If it can’t be spidered or indexed, it doesn’t exist.
- If it isn’t available in open and machine-readable format, it can’t engage.
- If a legal framework doesn’t allow it to be repurposed, it doesn’t empower.
Eaves sums this up even more succinctly as ‘Find, Play, Share’.171 An open access approach ensures that the terms and formats will permit and enable findability, usability and reusability, consistent with Eaves’ ‘Three Laws’.
Box 8: Unlocking PSI in the UK
The UK Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) has established a PSI ‘Unlocking Service’ in beta which individuals can use to gain access to PSI in a straight forward way.172 The service allows individuals to make requests for PSI that they wish to reuse. Requests can include pointing out where licences are too restrictive for reuse or suggesting where an API for data would be useful. The OPSI checks first that the data is not already available under data access laws and if it is not, uploads the request to allow others to vote for it. OPSI also contacts the PSI holder on the individual’s behalf to seek the release of the information.
Open PSI can be instrumental in enhancing accountability both in government and elsewhere. The following US examples illustrate the potential for this in government:
- The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) maintains a database of the financial reports companies are required to file with them. The database (EDGAR) was always available for a fee, however the SEC resisted making the information available on the internet. In the 1990s, a public domain advocate, Carl Malamud (with the help of benefactors) purchased access to the data and put it online in an accessible format. The SEC was surprised by the site’s popularity and within two years had put EDGAR online themselves.173
- Malamud also put data from the Patent Office online and noticed that a lot of the visitors to the site were from the Patent Office which built their own online database.
- The US Environmental Protection Agency operates a publicly available database containing information on toxic chemical releases and waste management activities reported annually by industry and federal facilities.174 Using the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Explorer,175 people can look up toxic releases in their area. Other US organisations such as the Right to Know Network176 and Scorecard177 use the TRI data to provide the information in an easily searchable form and combined with other data sources (for example, information on the possible health hazards of toxic chemicals).
- US FedSpending is a non-government site that provides all the available data on US Federal Government expenditure and allows users to examine and compare it by department or by state or even whether contracts were competitively bid or not.178 MapLight179 and Fundrace180 both highlight political donations, and OpenCongress181 (run by the Sunlight Foundation) allows users to compare donations to politicians to their voting records and legislation.
- The winner of the taskforce’s Canberra GovHack event was a group which built LobbyClue182 a Web 2.0 tool which integrates Commonwealth Lobbyists Register Data183 with contract notices data from AusTender.184
Box 9: OpenAustralia: the community value-add to government information
OpenAustralia shows how the community can add value to government information to the benefit of government and the people. OpenAustralia started in 2007 as a website that ‘makes it easy for people to keep tabs on their elected representatives in Parliament.’ The site was founded by software developer Matthew Landauer and visual effects supervisor Katherine Szuminska. The site has been developed by a team of volunteer programmers and enthusiasts and is now run by the OpenAustralia Foundation.
The inspiration for the site came from the UK site TheyWorkForYou.com. OpenAustralia republishes all Hansard and other information about members of parliament with the aim of making democracy and the activities of our political leaders more transparent.
OpenAustralia has secured permission to publish Commonwealth Hansard in a more accessible and searchable format. To date, similar requests to publish state and territory Hansard have made little headway.185 OpenAustralia also publishes data from the Register of Members Interests and biographical information about Members of Parliament (MPs) from the Australian Parliament House website.
Visitors to the site can enter their postcode and find out who their representative is and what their representative has said recently in Parliament. Visitors can also follow particular topics, by using the site search or by subscribing to email alerts every time a particular representative or senator says something or when a particular topic is discussed or both.
In June 2009, the site had 25,000 page views per month and just over 1300 email subscribers. OpenAustralia.org found that of those, 300 (23 per cent) of its active 1300 email subscribers were using .gov.au email addresses, suggesting that the subscribers were public servants.186
In addition, media reports suggest that OpenAustralia has identified numerous errors in Hansard, that even Hansard reporters admit to using the OpenAustralia service in preference to the official version because it is more reliable.187 OpenAustralia has been working with the Department of Parliamentary Services to speed the fixing of any Hansard errors that OpenAustralia discovers.
Once it is made freely available by governments, PSI has great economic potential. According to a survey conducted by the European Commission in 2006 (MEPSIR study188), the overall market size for PSI in the EU is estimated at EUR 27 billion.189 Various international studies190 confirm economic benefits of open PSI licensing. Often these benefits are so great that the increased corporate and individual taxes on additional economic activity outweighs any revenue losses from moving from charging for PSI to distributing it free of charge. Likewise the 2007 UK Power of Information Review estimated the amount of money generated by direct sales of information by UK trading funds to be much smaller than the wider value of PSI to the economy.191
In Australia, economic modelling suggests that the use of spatial data and high precision positioning systems can increase productivity in the order of many billions of dollars192 across a range of industry sectors, such as:
- property and business services
- electricity, gas and water
- mining and resources
- resource exploration
The potential benefits of dealing with information are not isolated to the public sector. The 2008 UK Capgemini Information Management Report found that failure to properly exploit information assets was costing the UK private and public sectors a staggering £46 billion and £21 billion respectively.193, 194
Box 10: Optimal pricing for public sector information
On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time.
This quote from Stewart Brand frames the debate on the pricing of Public Sector Information. But the term free is itself ambiguous in English. Public Sector Information can be ‘free as in speech’ that is, available for access, downloading and modification, without being ‘free as in beer’, that is given away for no charge, as is implied in the phrase ‘free beer’. The terms ‘libre’ and ‘gratis’ are often used to refer to this distinction.
The central finding of this project is that, under the conditions created by Web 2.0, making information effectively freely available (libre) generally requires that it be provided free of charge (gratis). As the costs of disseminating and accessing information have declined, the transactions costs associated with charging for access to information, and controlling subsequent redistribution have come to constitute a major barrier to access in themselves. As a result, the case for free (gratis) provision of Public Sector Information is even stronger than has already been recognised.
From the transactions cost perspective, it is equally important that the provision of information should not be burdened with unnecessary restrictions on use, such as those associated with standard copyright. A good default choice, which provides for free (libre) use, protects this freedom in reuse and is consistent with free (gratis) pricing is the Creative Commons BY. The work in this project has shown how these points can be demonstrated, and estimates of the social loss associated with priced access to information derived, using a simple diagrammatic analysis of the kind familiar to undergraduate economics.
John Quiggin — Personal correspondence in the course of Project 6
Recent moves towards the free distribution of PSI in Australia illustrate how much consumers of information respond to a zero price and thus how much benefit zero price distribution can generate. The Australian Government announced its Spatial Data Access and Pricing Policy in September 2001 which was implemented over the six months to February 2002. The policy was ‘premised on the view that all fundamental spatial data should be freely available at no more than marginal cost of transfer in order to maximise the net economic and social benefits arising from its use.’195 The growth in use as a result of the policy — an average annual rate of over 40 per cent rose to over 200 per cent in the third and fourth years taking the usage from 75,000 downloads in 2001–02 to 863,000 downloads in 2005–06.196
Box 11: Some economic advantages of open access to data
The United States makes complete weather data available to anyone at the cost of reproduction…European countries, by contrast, typically claim government copyright over weather data and often require the payment of substantial fees. Which approach is better?…The US weather risk management industry, for example, is ten times bigger than the European one, employing more people, producing more valuable products, generating more social wealth. Another study estimates that Europe invests €9.5bn in weather data and gets approximately €68bn back in economic value — in everything from more efficient farming and construction decisions, to better holiday planning — a seven-fold multiplier. The United States, by contrast invests twice as much — €19bn — but gets back a return of €750bn, a 39-fold multiplier. Other studies suggest similar patterns in areas ranging from geo-spatial data to traffic patterns and agriculture. ‘Free’ information flow is better at priming the pump of economic activity.
James Boyle, 2005197
The ABS has also been at the forefront of the movement within Australian Government to free up data. There has been a surge in the use of ABS data going from around a million downloads per year when data was sold to recover costs to over four million downloads a year in the first full year of free access.
Figure 5: Freeing up data drives strong demand growth at ABS
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2007198
‘Mapping our Anzacs’199 was built quickly on a small budget, with resultant limitations in terms of usability, but it indicates the potential for citizen engagement. In nine months, the Archives has received hundreds of corrections to the names of service personnel, next of kin, and places of birth and enlistment. One thousand eight hundred public contributions to the digital scrapbook have extended and enhanced the archival account of World War I service. Additionally, feedback via the site suggests that the public is willing to do more, including offers from individuals to undertake bulk data correction. The ‘Mapping our Anzacs’ experience suggests that exposing the public to government processes, rather than limiting their exposure to finished products, can be intrinsically motivating for public users. The community feels honoured to be trusted to help and appreciative of the opportunity to be involved.
The National Archives of Australia.200
Many of the social benefits derived from PSI are not easily quantifiable in economic terms but they improve quality of life in myriad ways. Australia’s cultural institutions, such as the National Library of Australia (NLA), the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, the Australian War Memorial and the NAA, have all have made extensive parts of their collections freely available online. They are using Web 2.0 tools and engaging the community to improve their collections.
Since 2007, the NLA has had historic Australian newspapers201 scanned and digitised by optical character recognition software. It has then published the resulting text on the web in such a way as to permit the public to correct errors202 produced by the optical character recognition software. The result has been spectacular:
- in the first month of use over 200,000 lines of text were corrected. Today over six million lines of text have been corrected
- at no point since early in the program has there been a time when text correction is not taking place. It continues 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- 78 per cent of users are based in Australia but there is a growing international community with users in the UK, US, NZ and Canada. One of the top ten correctors was based in US
- no vandalism of text was detected in six months so no roll back to previous versions or moderation was required.203
As a major volunteer contributor to the NLA’s Newspaper Digitisation Program explained it to the taskforce:
Yes it can be addictive. For me I value the opportunity to leave my own slight impression or watermark upon Australian historiography.
In the history of the NLA the Newspaper Digitisation Program may well be seen as a watershed in how the institution very successfully (and accidentally) reached out to the user population, and received a level of commitment and engagement that was beyond belief.204
The UK Government provides opinion information to students and creates obvious incentives for schools to improve their performance.205 Australian students choose their preferred tertiary education institutions and even their local primary and secondary schools. In contrast to the UK, information which is collected at substantial public cost cannot be accessed by Australian parents and students eager to use it to determine which institutions offer the best service for them.
In April 2008 the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Council adopted the Recommendation of the OECD Council for enhanced access and more effective use of public sector information.206 (Australia is a member of the OECD and was a participant in and a signatory to the recommendation.) It recommends that member countries ‘in establishing or reviewing their policies regarding access and use of public sector information…take due account of and implement the following principles, which provide a general framework for the wider and more effective use of public sector information and content and the generation of new uses from it.’
The taskforce endorses the broad thrust of the principles but notes that there is a strong case for greater prominence to be given to timeliness in these principles. It is common for information to be locked up for far too long while it is brought into a state deemed acceptable for publication. Where data will require further work to improve its quality there should be a strong presumption that it should be released — together with clear declarations of any limitations in the quality of the information and the ways in which this limits its usefulness. While there are no doubt circumstances where the early release of data that will be subsequently revised could do more harm than good, this will be rare.
The taskforce also considers that greater prominence can be given to the importance of metadata to the effective release of PSI. Metadata is ‘data describing data’ and it is essential for users wishing to ‘find, play or share’ it. Metadata can take many forms:
- Discovery metadata — describes a sufficient amount of the content of a resource to a sufficient level of detail such that the resource can be discovered and used by anyone with an interest in it. In its simplest form it might be just the title of a spreadsheet although to maximise the chances of the resource being discovered, discovery metadata should be more comprehensive and ideally follow a standard.
- Quality metadata — enables potential users to make decisions about whether to use, or how they should use, a resource. To maximise its utility, quality metadata should be presented in a consistent way, if possible, for all available resources. This can be achieved by using a quality framework to assess each resource.207 Aspects of quality metadata can also be considered to be discovery metadata.
- Content metadata — enables a resource to be understood and used. At the highest level, content metadata is consists of the super set of metadata that is required to enable a dataset to stand on its own — metadata about the dataset itself as well as metadata about the actual data that it contains. At the lowest level, content metadata describes each element in each record in a dataset by specifying things such as name, format, length etc.
The more comprehensive the metadata, the more useful it is. However, providing comprehensive metadata can be a time consuming and costly, particularly where internal information management is in a poor state. The perfect can be the enemy of the good,208 and this can lead to unnecessary delays in the release of data. To overcome this, a ‘layered’ approach to metadata can be adopted, where the first priority is to provide simpler metadata sets, building up to more complete metadata as expertise is built up and as sophisticated information management processes become established.
Box 12: Reducing metadata paralysis by choosing simpler metadata sets
It is acknowledged that metadata assists with search, discovery and access for data sets. However, in the case of spatial data, a certain level of ‘metadata paralysis’ can be observed where some agencies focus on completing a full metadata record as an absolute prerequisite before publication of the data set. This reduces the speed with which data is made available to the public.
SIBA recommends mandating the use of minimal metadata requirements for spatial datasets as one of the key mechanisms for making more government data searchable and usable, including legacy data. SIBA also recommends the use of standards based metadata capture and access capabilities and related tools, which reduce the effort to create metadata.
Information supplied to the taskforce by the Spatial Industries Business Association (Australia) (SIBA)
The call in our terms of reference for the establishment of ‘a pro-disclosure culture around non-sensitive public sector information’ is straightforward enough. Yet as demonstrated below, the list of objections that might be made to the release of PSI — reasons for arguing that this particular piece of information is not ‘non-sensitive’ — is virtually endless. At any stage public decision makers may be tempted to play it safe.
The new policy of openness must be overseen by an agency with sufficient authority and independence to ensure that each decision which might obstruct the free flow government information is informed.209
5.6.1: Perceived obstacles to open release of PSI
For PSI to be successfully released today it must clear the following hurdles:
- For someone to access PSI they must know of its existence and location. Yet agencies often have no systematic knowledge of all the data they hold and to the extent that they do, they have not been required to make such knowledge available to the public in a register. If information is known to the agency it may not be known to those outside the agency who might find it useful. Most obviously if its existence has not already been published, there may be the need for permission for those outside agencies to have its existence and location divulged.
- Even if its existence is publicly known, the institutions of government ensure that secrecy is the default. Thus public officials face sanctions ranging from subtle disapproval through to reprimand and ultimately jail sentences for releasing information without authorisation, generally irrespective of the merits of release.
- Releasing information must also be consistent with domestic and national security considerations and with privacy laws.
- There can be economic reasons not to publish. Some PSI may be costly to get into a useable form, whilst a particular agency may earn some revenue from the licensing of PSI (see s.5.7.2 below).
- Further, once publication takes place, the information cannot flow freely without liberal licensing and even then, given the way in which copyright is built around the notion of cascading permissions to copy, problems may remain (See s.5.7 below).
5.6.2: The inevitability of judgement and the scope to frustrate openness
This list of possible bona fide reasons for obstructing the free flow of information is daunting. Many of the decisions involved require fine judgements and some of these are on detailed points of law. This is against the backdrop of a public sector decision making culture which focuses on avoiding mistakes or embarrassment and achieving consensus rather than the seizing opportunities.
Throughout their decision making, officials and politicians will also be considering how information might be ‘spun’ by the media, their opponents or those with direct commercial interests or an axe to grind. These considerations will militate against release if the data discloses inadequacies in a government program. Whether it does or not might not be known by the decision makers. All this strengthens the case for secrecy for the risk averse.
18.104.22.168: Data quality, embarrassment and inconvenient truths
Gartner consultant Andrea Di Maio recently warned agencies to be prepared for the linking or combining of data with other data sets in ways that reveal unexpected or inconvenient truths.210 Releasing PSI also invites ‘intermediation’: that is, external bodies using PSI to add value or deliver services to individuals. In so doing, they are acting as an intermediary between government and individuals. Di Maio warned that this could dilute the ‘brand’ of agencies or government as a whole. As they do this, trust may shift to these intermediaries operating outside government supervision. Agencies may need to consider where accountability lies in terms of the quality of the information, its reliability and currency and how agencies will ensure that the public continue to receive high quality information and services. The taskforce agrees that these matters should be carefully considered in agencies’ management of Government 2.0. It also stresses that they should never be reasons for preventing the release of PSI.
There might be concerns, legitimate or less so, about the quality of the data to be released. With rare exceptions, it will be better to drive the accountability and innovation benefits that come from an open access approach to PSI by releasing the data, subject to clearly expressed caveats about its quality and possibly with the intention of subsequently revising and improving it — including by ‘crowdsourcing’ the identification of problems with the data and/or the fixing of them. Agencies should not use poor quality as an excuse to suppress data. Even when the quality of the data is poor, its release may generate benefits. This issue is best illustrated in emergency situations, when data which may be far from perfect will usually do much more good than no data at all, particularly if people are forewarned about its inadequacies. Often release is a prelude to the data being improved as corrections, or at least the identification of problems is ‘crowdsourced’ as has happened with the NAA’s ‘Mapping our Anzacs’ program.
A practical obstacle may be an agency’s concern about the real or perceived potential for organisational, professional or personal embarrassment. This may be either over something revealed in the information or in some inadequacy in the quality of the data itself. An incident of this nature occurred during the organisation of the MashupAustralia contest by the taskforce.
A federal department was well disposed to release a dataset going back several decades for MashupAustralia. It was largely publicly available in scattered form and would have been released under existing FOI. However it was discovered to be poorly maintained. Some data was wrong or missing. There are no hazards that we can imagine that would have arisen from the publication of the data, but the department then chose not to release it. Many taskforce members are familiar with stories such as this one.
Even where information is released, it is natural for managers seeking to minimise adverse risk to try to control whatever they can. In addition to being reinforced by an organisation’s culture and incentives, it is also ‘professionalised’. Thus specific professions advising management, such as the provision of legal, communications or IT advice and services will typically see maximisation of control as a default setting to minimise adverse risks. If one has information one cannot be sure that it will not be used or misused in ways that may embarrass an agency. So why release it if one can avoid it? If one has copyright, why relinquish some of the rights it gives one, instead of staying in control of how users use the information? If one is managing a commercial entity like the NSW trains services why let others use your information when you are accustomed to controlling it yourself? And why release information that you may — just may — want to sell someday yourself?211
Box 13: People and cultural change
The issues paper212 acknowledges that people and cultural change within government is a significant hurdle for Government 2.0. We do have a risk-averse culture and we have a culture of highly controlled communication. Most agencies have public affairs, marketing, web and publishing teams with clearly defined roles, responsibilities and approvals processes for published material. Web 2.0 challenges this structure in being an informal conversation space that produces a public record (and, for federal government agencies, a Commonwealth record).
Submission by Tikka Wilson.213
Around all these issues is a penumbra of doubt. Often something will not be released, not because it is clear that it is in breach of some stipulation — for instance the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) — but because someone thinks it just could be and of course privacy regulation, like so many areas of regulation can be complex. So rules of thumb are needed for practitioners. They may not precisely reflect the details of that act, or of any of the other possible obstacles, but they may nevertheless lead to suppression of information even if the technical details of the Privacy Act actually permit release. Privacy officials use the acronym BOTPA ‘Because of the Privacy Act’ often with some irony to describe such situations where the Privacy Act is cited to defend suppression where a proper understanding of the Privacy Act indicates that it is actually permissible.214
Some data intended for the taskforce’s MashupAustralia competition was only just rescued from being withheld from open licensing at the last minute because of the concerns of a relatively junior privacy officer. Yet the data was already publicly available and searchable on a government website where it continues to repose under the government’s standard copyright licence ‘all rights reserved.’
In a sophisticated economy, much cooperation occurs between parties that never communicate directly with each other. Their cooperation is possible because common standards have been developed. The internet and world wide web are themselves the product of a wide array of evolving standards. The burgeoning complexity we see around us — and the modular way in which each service on the net depends on myriad other services — could not occur if cooperation was organised piecemeal, action by action, with each user seeking specific permission for each action they took.
Application programming interfaces, or APIs, on Web 2.0 platforms effectively provide those who would extend the functionality of those platforms pre-approval to do so. APIs publicly specify the technical requirements of operating on the platform and provide advance permissions to do so. Accordingly, developers who are independent of the platform owner are invited and enabled to build for the platform, which provides value for users and in so doing makes the platform more valuable. This modus operandi has been a key to the success of Web 2.0 platforms enabling developers to build a rich and growing menu of functionality on the platform.215
Why wouldn’t the owners of these platforms want to stay in control, individually negotiating permission on each application that runs on them? Because they understand:
- the dynamism of the industry they operate in
- the impossibility of any one agent being in control in the sense of understanding what use the platform can or should be put to
- the need for those who will invest to develop the platform, and so add to its value, to know the terms on which they can do so, and have security that those terms will not be changed at the whim of the platform provider.
In seeking to use copyright to stay ‘in control’ of their PSI, governments have lost sight of the costs this has on the ultimate value of that PSI. This is a matter to which the report now turns.
Box 14: Innovation in open networks — Creative Commons, the next layer of openness
If you try to imagine what it would have been like to create Google before we had this stack of open standards, you would probably have had to pay millions of dollars to create the software on a proprietary operating system. It would have required a huge team of people taking many years. Since it was a ‘search engine’ it most likely would have been given to the phone company to design and run…This total project probably would have taken a decade and cost a billion dollars and would probably not even have worked properly.
In fact, the total cost of actually building and launching the first Google server was probably only thousands of dollars using standard PC components, mostly open source software as the base and connecting to the Stanford University network which immediately made the service available, at no additional cost, to everyone else on the Internet.
The open standards and the small pieces loosely joined had created an ecosystem of components and networks that dramatically lowered the cost of development, collaboration and delivery. This allowed people to innovate, launch, fail, connect, mashup and remix in such an efficient way and at such low cost, that the center of innovation moved from the research laboratories of the giant companies to the startup and venture capital scene in Silicon Valley.
Of course, there were startups and venture capitalists before the Internet, but the influence and scale of this new engine of innovation was unprecedented. The Internet continues to disintermediate and disrupt sector after sector by lowering friction and enabling interoperability…
The Internet has enabled us to technically connect and collaborate. But just as network software engineers were required to open communications between online users, we now need lawyers to sort out the copyright and content regulations between us so that we — businesses and individuals — can share, collaborate and build legally…
In the early days, those of us who were proponents of TCP/IP had to argue with regulators, lawyers, and technologists who, for a variety of reasons, did not support the standard. Creative Commons still has critics who do not yet understand the benefits of the network effects and collaboration that it enables. Like each new layer of the Internet stack, Creative Commons will soon become, in hindsight, an obviously necessary ingredient for collaboration, enabling yet-to-be-imagined innovations that will have a dramatically positive effect on business, society, and the environment.
Joi Ito, Creative Commons: Enabling the next level of innovation216
To achieve a pro-disclosure culture that treats government information as a national asset, more effective management of Commonwealth copyright licensing is required. Copyright law provides economic incentives for creative expression by granting copyright owners exclusive rights to control certain uses of their work. Yet where governments produce or fund PSI the need for such protection is less convincing. As Professor Anne Fitzgerald puts it; ‘since many government materials…are created in the ordinary course of activities…the traditional justification of copyright as providing an incentive to produce and disseminate new information is much less relevant’.217
Some jurisdictions have carved government information out from copyright protection. In the United States, federal government materials (produced by officers or employees of the US Government) are in the public domain and free of copyright.218 In countries as diverse as New Zealand,219 Japan,220 Poland,221 South Africa,222 South Korea,223 Taiwan224 and Thailand225 key government documents such as public laws and judgments are not protected by copyright.
At present, government copyright gives government officials the power to approve or disapprove a particular use and reuse of government information, and this may be on grounds unrelated to copyright concerns.
Authorising widespread distribution of PSI by copying and commentary on the policy statements of political leaders and government agencies, will contribute to better informed public debate. Allowing unfettered use and reuse of government data and information more generally can add to Australia’s innovative capacity and economic prosperity.
At present however, typical Commonwealth copyright licensing statement permits only limited pre-authorised use of government materials. For example, members of the public were only permitted to do the following with the 2009 Budget:
You may download, display, print and reproduce this material in unaltered form only (retaining this notice) for your personal, non-commercial use or use within your organisation. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, all other rights are reserved.226
Republication and adaptation of government material requires further permissions from the Commonwealth Copyright Administration Unit (CCA), which is more likely to grant the request than to deny it.
An Australian Government agency wishing to depart from the default Commonwealth copyright position will typically seek legal advice and consult with the CCA. A good idea or innovative passion can wane in the days it requires to resolve this. In the time that it takes to negotiate permission to use data, the need for the data, or the opportunity to find an alternative, may have passed.227 At the same time, the advent of the internet and digital technologies has created a tension with copyright law. Everything a computer can see it can copy, indeed arguably, it has already copied. Web 2.0 is characterised by interactivity, information sharing and collaboration. Instant copying, pasting, sharing, adaptation are characteristic of Web 2.0 phenomena such as social networking, video sharing, wikis, blogs, mashups228 and folksonomies.229 All of these activities implicate copyright rights.
As a general rule, copyright law requires people to ask permission before doing any of these things with others’ material.230 When permission for use of material is forthcoming, it may be granted on terms that hamper downstream use.
Railcorp in New South Wales reportedly threatened four developers who took sought to develop iPhone applications enabling Sydney commuters to check railway timetables on their phones.231 Railcorp’s copyright obliged users of their data to seek permission which was not granted. Responding to criticism, NSW Railcorp then released its data under a licence that gave it the power to approve apps and make suggestions for their improvement.232
Creative Commons (CC) is a development in copyright licensing which provides codified advance permissions in much the same way that an API provides permissions on a Web 2.0 platform. In so doing, CC maximises the extent to which users understand how they can use, copy and transform copyright works.
Since their initial release in 2002 CC licences,233 available in varying levels of permissiveness, have become an international standard allowing copyright owners to pre-authorise the terms on which they allow others to use and/or transform their material.
Some argue that governments can draft their own licences around their specific needs maximising the government’s control. However, on the contemporary internet this comes at a surprisingly large cost. The permissions codified into CC licences function as machine-readable standards. The alternative of governments designing their own bespoke licences would involve humans vetting each licence and driving up transactions costs, foregoing many of the self-organising possibilities of Web 2.0.
Box 15: Review of government copyright
It will be for the government to determine how it manages copyright in what we hope will be a uniform approach to disclosing more PSI. In doing so, we recommend that the government promote understanding of copyright along with the government’s detailed position on open access. In selecting a licensing option, the government could identify and use a Creative Commons licence or develop a user-friendly licence that meets with the government’s approval, without lengthy disclaimers.
Alternatively, before delegating powers to PSI managers, the government could revisit the regulation of existing Crown copyright and, more generally, copyright in materials which contain PSI. In doing this, serious consideration should be given to adopting the approach of the US Government to regulating Crown copyright. In the US, ‘a work prepared by an officer or employee of the [federal] government as part of that person’ s official duties’ is not protected by US federal copyright law. Mirroring this in Australia could at least remove one layer of regulation that hinders the free flow of PSI and avoid the need to consider licensing options.
Submission by NSW Young Lawyers234
The taskforce has addressed the most commonly raised concerns about the use of Creative Commons licences by Australian government agencies that were raised in various submissions received in response to the taskforce’s Towards Government 2.0: An Issues Paper. These are included at Appendix D: Troubleshooting Concerns About Creative Commons.
5.8.1: The provision of licensing advice
As touched on in several areas of this report, issues of Copyright are now central to PSI. To date the Commonwealth Copyright Administration (CCA) has been located within the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) in large part for administrative convenience. It responds to public requests to use Commonwealth copyright material and provides Commonwealth agencies with administrative advice on the management of copyright.
Given the development of specific institutions to promote Government 2.0, such as the lead agency and the Information Commissioner, the current administrative functions of the CCA unit within AGD relating to pre and post licensing of copyright material should transfer to the proposed new OIC. Other administrative functions of the CCA unit should be reviewed to identify which of the functions should remain within AGD and those that should transfer to either the lead agency or the proposed new OIC.
5.8.2: Copyright law and cultural heritage
Finally, the issue of copyright law and Australia’s cultural heritage deserves separate and special consideration in the context of Government 2.0. An understanding of Australia’s cultural heritage and historical background can inform current decision making, strengthen representative democracy and promote a wiser discussion.
Where copyright in cultural collections is not a barrier, there are exciting possibilities in the use of tools such as Flickr, which is used by many major cultural and archival organisations to make photographic and video collections available more widely. The ability to use such tools to enhance accessibility is particularly important in the archival context. They can provide efficient access to public archival collections which would not otherwise be available due to the volume of material, funding or archival resource constraints.
Copyright law can be a major hindrance for archival institutions wishing to make their collections more accessible and useable. While archival bodies may own their physical collections as objects, they may not own all, or any, of the copyright that resides in them.
According to the Copyright Act 1968,235 protection for unpublished works (for example manuscripts) will not start to expire until publication has occurred. Until published, documents which form a significant part of Australia’s archival collections will be subject to copyright protection forever. The UK changed the law on this in 1988 by ending perpetual copyright in existing unpublished works. The rationale for protecting unpublished works under Australian copyright law requires closer examination.236 Further, a recent decision by the Full Federal Court of Australia237 raises a question as to the circumstances in which materials become published.
In 2006, the Australian Government announced its intention to conduct an inquiry into orphan works.238 Despite the intention that section 200AB of the Copyright Act 1968, effective from 1 January 2007, would provide for flexible dealing, it has failed to realise any more certainty in this area. Further review of section 200AB is required to give it more meaningful purpose.
Cultural collecting institutions can take a risk management approach to dealing with copyright in their release of orphan works, but there would be many institutions that are reluctant to take such a risk. Tracking down copyright owners can be resource intensive and frequently, the solution is non-release. This runs counter to the pro-disclosure culture promoted by the FOI reforms and Government 2.0 and is especially regrettable for very old unpublished manuscripts.
The Australian Government’s archival collection, held by the NAA, is a mixture of Crown and privately held copyright. In most cases, because of the age of the material, it is not practically possible to track down the owners of non-Crown copyright. The Commonwealth holds a significant quantity of this material in government records and it can be made available to the public under the section 57 of the Archives Act 1983. People who want to reuse it need to seek permission from the NAA to use Crown copyright and to also attempt to track down any private copyright owners.
Box 16: Commonwealth records released under the Archives Act
Commonwealth records released under the Archives Act are legally available, not just to the person who applied for access, but to the general public. The subsequent use of these records is regulated only through the government’s exercise of its rights in copyright in the material.
To ensure that information is not used in an inappropriate manner those intending to publish information from [archival] government records are required to seek permission through the National Archives. Over years of granting publication permissions on behalf of agencies and of referring requests to agencies, the National Archives can cite only one instance in which permission to publish was refused on the grounds that the use was inappropriate. This would suggest that the requirement to obtain permission may be unnecessary, or that publicly available records could be reproduced under a licence which stipulated the conditions under which material could be reproduced, obviating the requirement for permissions to be sought in every instance…If government copyright in Commonwealth records, both published and unpublished, is to be retained at all, it may be appropriate that it expires, if not earlier, at the point at which Commonwealth records become available for public access under the Archives Act.
Submission by National Archives of Australia239
6.1 By default Public Sector Information240 (PSI) should be:
- based on open standards
- easily discoverable
- freely reusable and transformable.244
6.2 PSI should be released as early as practicable and regularly updated to ensure its currency is maintained.
6.3 Consistent with the need for free and open reuse and adaptation, PSI released should be licensed under the Creative Commons BY standard245 as the default.
6.4 Use of more restrictive licensing arrangements should be reserved for special circumstances only, and such use is to be in accordance with general guidance or specific advice provided by the proposed OIC.
6.5 The proposed OIC should develop policies to maximise the extent to which existing PSI be relicensed Creative Commons BY, taking account of undue administrative burden this may cause for agencies. To minimise administrative burden, the taskforce envisages that rules could be adopted whereby a large amount of PSI that has already been published could be automatically designated Creative Commons BY. This would include government reports, legislation and records that are already accessible to the public. Individuals or organisations should also be able to request that other PSI be relicensed Creative Commons BY on application, with a right of appeal should the request be refused, to the proposed new Information Commissioner.
6.6 Where ownership of the PSI data rests with the Commonwealth, data should be released under Creative Commons BY licence. Negotiation with the other party/ies will be required to ensure release under Creative Commons BY for PSI which is not owned by the Commonwealth, or is shared with another party/ies. New contracts or agreements with a third party should endeavour to include a clause clearly stating the Commonwealth’s obligation to publish relevant data and that this be under a Creative Commons BY licence.246 This policy should become mandatory for all contracts signed by the Commonwealth after June 2011.
6.7 Copyright policy should be amended so that works covered by Crown copyright are automatically licensed under a Creative Commons BY licence at the time at which Commonwealth records become available for public access under the Archives Act 1983.
6.8 Any decision to withhold the release of PSI, other than where there is a legal obligation to withhold release, should only be made with the agreement of, or in conformity with policies endorsed by the proposed OIC and consistent with the Australian Government’s FOI policy, noting that:
6.8.2 agencies must proactively identify and release, without request, such data that might reasonably be considered as holding value to parties outside the agency.
6.9 The Australian Government should engage other members of the Council of Australian Governments to extend these principles into a national information policy agreed between all levels of government; federal, state, territory and local.
6.10 In order to accelerate the adoption of Government 2.0, in addition to any distribution arrangements they wish to pursue, agencies should ensure that the PSI they release should be discoverable and accessible via a central portal (data.gov.au) containing details of the nature, format and release of the PSI.
6.11 Within the first year of its establishment the proposed OIC, in consultation with the lead agency, should develop and agree a common methodology to inform government on the social and economic value generated from published PSI.
6.12 The major agencies249 under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act) should use the common methodology to report their performance in the release of PSI in their annual reports, commencing from the first anniversary of the establishment of the proposed OIC.
6.13 The proposed OIC should annually publish a report outlining the contribution of each agency to the consolidated value of Commonwealth PSI, commencing from the first anniversary of the establishment of the proposed OIC. The report should be published online and be accessible for comment and discussion.
6.14 Following government acceptance of the initial ‘Value of PSI Report’, the proposed OIC should consider the development of a ‘lite’ version of the common methodology for use by other FMA Act agencies.
6.15 The taskforce notes the proposed changes to the FOI Amendment (Reform) Bill 2009 to have the proposed OIC issue guidelines to support the future operations of the Act as described in the Explanatory Memorandum for Schedule 2, Section 8.250 To ensure effective and consistent implementation of access to PSI these guidelines should give due consideration to the concepts outlined above.
7.1 Agencies should apply policy guidance, or seek advice on a case by case basis, on the licensing of PSI either before its release or in administering licences after publication from the proposed OIC.
7.2 The functions currently performed by the Commonwealth Copyright Administration (CCA) unit within the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) relating to pre- and post-licensing of copyright material should be transferred to either the proposed OIC or the lead agency. Other administrative functions of the CCA unit should be reviewed to identify which of the functions should remain within AGD and those that should transfer to the proposed OIC.
7.3 It is recommended that the proposed OIC examine the current state of copyright law with regard to orphan works (including section 200AB of the Copyright Act 1968), with the aim of recommending amendments that would remove the practical restrictions that currently impede the use of such works.
The taskforce notes the approach taken by the Victorian Parliament’s Inquiry into Improving Access to Public Sector Information and Data, and particularly its recommendation that PSI be narrowly defined so that attention can be given to the PSI of core government agencies such as departments first, though the inquiry was sympathetic to extending the definition of PSI over time.251
In principle the taskforce disagrees. In absence of good reasons to the contrary, whatever information or content has been funded by the public should, be discoverable, accessible and useable as a public asset whether it has been generated by government departments or quasi government agencies. Accordingly the taskforce’s recommendations for PSI apply to PSI held by publicly funded agencies of all kinds including universities, schools, hospitals and cultural agencies.
Nevertheless in practice there may not be much distancing the taskforce from the Victorian approach. Implementing the policy regime set out in this report across all publicly funded agencies will be a substantial undertaking. Accordingly it may be appropriate for there to be staged introduction of the policy.
5.9.1: Where agencies are charging for PSI
As several studies reported above have found, government revenue will often benefit more from taxes on the economic growth stimulated by open access to PSI than it will suffer where governments lose direct revenue from the sale of PSI. As reported above, Project 6 for the taskforce showed how in the age of the internet, taking transactions costs into account strengthens the case for open PSI even further.
This is an important, but not complete answer to the dilemmas that the issue raises. Firstly, even where zero pricing is the optimal economic policy from the perspective of national welfare, open PSI will not always generate higher net government revenues and here additional revenue will have to be found. Those in charge of government budgeting are typically loath to take into account speculative revenue gains for fear of harming the rigour of the budgetary process. The revenue benefits from taxation of increased economic activity arising from open PSI take time to materialise. In addition, to fund its recent fiscal stimulus, the government adopted stringent fiscal targets in coming years.
Thus, if governments are to find alternative sources of revenue as they have done before, they will need evidence that the loss of revenue brings some commensurate benefit. As a result, marginal cost and zero pricing of PSI may need in some cases to be phased in as budgets permit.
Secondly there are a range of practical matters that require attention to make the transition to open PSI with data that is currently being charged for. The agencies earning revenue from sale of PSI will typically not be the agencies that reap the tax revenue from the additional economic activity stimulated by open PSI, creating a variety of frictions in the practical process of opening PSI. This will particularly be the case with state governments, which have much narrower tax bases, raising both the political and economic cost of generating any additional revenue and reducing the extent to which the states will capture revenue from any additional economic activity arising from opening up PSI.
For this reason the lead agency should work with relevant agencies to understand their circumstances and help them individually prioritise actions to move towards greater marginal cost pricing of their PSI. At the same time it should publicly report on progress in this area across government so as to maintain Australia’s policy leadership in this area. It should also ensure that the Australian Government is well informed on any issues which are constraining state governments from authorising greater open access to PSI under their control.
While transitional issues must be acknowledged and properly managed they should not be used as an excuse for inaction. Further, anecdotal evidence suggests that in many instances the revenue raised from PSI charges net of the costs of administering PSI sale is a much smaller sum than the gross revenue collected. Indeed, it is not unusual for the net figure to be quite small or even negative, although sometimes this is not known to agencies. If this is the case, the argument for delay is even weaker.
Cultural agencies like the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), and some galleries and other cultural institutions, have well established business ventures from the sale and licensing of their content — including international licensing which may require restrictions on the distribution of their content.252 Because such agencies are not lavishly funded they are always seeking to explore avenues within their charters for greater internal funding. This mindset can lead agencies to pay greater attention to the revenue raising benefits of selling content — together with the restrictive licensing this entails — than the broader costs of doing so, not just to their mission but more broadly still.
The taskforce has focused its energies on making recommendations to encourage a transformation in the use of information and data-rich PSI. In the meantime the lead agency should seek to have the costs and benefits better understood both within the agencies which generate content for sale and the broader community. There may be a case for such agencies to release more PSI, particularly when the cost of selling it and the scope for free distribution to stimulate greater interest in and sales of complementary products is taken fully into account.253 Some such as the ABC and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney have made an excellent start in doing this and they are recognised as global leaders.
Once again however this should not be an excuse for inaction or for perpetuating business models which Web 2.0 is rendering obsolete. Some publishers have not just embraced the openness of Web 2.0, but have used the leverage it gives them to increase their audience and to drive lucrative new business models. Given its mission and its access to public funding, public sector agencies should be vigorous in exploring similar approaches. They may find themselves in the ideal position to explore what public goods might be built on the internet by public agencies with their own sources of funding.
Certainly openness and using the available tools to provide open access — freely licensed and at the marginal cost of distribution — must be a default position from which exceptions are argued. The onus is on cultural institutions to adapt to Web 2.0 including most importantly, taking advantage of the opportunities it offers.
Similarly some government research agencies like the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) seek to either sell or commercialise the intellectual property they help bring about. While it would be unwise for the taskforce to recommend any blanket rule, the Cutler Report found that research agencies are typically not particularly skilled at commercialising their IP portfolios. And releasing IP will often generate greater economic benefits than retaining private ownership, although it is often difficult for agencies to see this given that the economic benefits arising from in such a strategy may be more diffuse and serendipitous — and so unforeseeable. For these reasons, as with cultural institutions, research agencies should be required to discharge a strong burden of proof before retaining IP themselves.
To encourage the public to contribute ideas and expertise and to collaborate in policy development and service delivery, it is important that the community be as informed as possible. The information publication scheme is one way in which this can occur. A well informed community is, of course, also an essential driver for greater government accountability and transparency.
The terms of reference of the taskforce require it to identify policies and frameworks to assist the proposed OIC and other agencies in developing and managing a whole of government information publication scheme to encourage greater disclosure of public sector information.
Requirements for an information publication scheme arise in the context of proposals for amendments to the Commonwealth’s Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act). The Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Bill 2009 (FOI Reform Bill)254 establishes an information publication scheme and sets out ten categories of information that agencies must publish. In addition, the proposed scheme also includes provision for an agency to publish other information at its discretion (guided by the objects of the FOI Act and guidelines to be issued by the Information Commissioner). Importantly, the protections of the FOI Act from actions for defamation, breach of confidence or infringement of copyright are extended to this discretionary publication (Division 2, Clause 90 of the FOI Reform Bill).
The FOI Reform Bill also requires agencies to publish plans showing how they propose to implement the scheme. Agency plans set out what information will be published through its scheme, how and to whom it will publish the information and how it will otherwise comply with the scheme’s requirements. The Bill gives the proposed OIC responsibility for reviewing the operation of the scheme in each agency, investigating compliance and reporting on the operation of the scheme.
In this case, Australia has limited examples of established practice. Most freedom of information legislation includes a range of documents, or information about documents, that agencies are required to publish. The extension of this basic requirement is the development of a comprehensive model publication scheme requiring agencies to maintain publications schemes approved by a Commissioner.
To date model publication schemes have been introduced only in the UK and Scotland and, in Australia, in Queensland with other states making moves to follow. The UK refined its initial publication scheme in light of early difficulties in implementation. The UK’s current model publication scheme provides a useful model from which to draw lessons for Australia. There are differences between the UK model and the Australian Government’s proposed publication scheme, particularly the wider publication requirements in the Australian model.
5.10.1: Discretionary publication scheme
A distinctive feature of the proposed scheme is the provision for agencies to publish information at their discretion, beyond the ten mandatory categories of (fairly standard) organisational and operational information that they must publish.
This has the potential to build an agency-driven proactive publication regime, with each agency tailoring its own publication schedule to suit its functions and client needs.
A significant advantage for an agency in using the discretionary publication provisions proposed in the FOI Reform Bill is that the protections of the FOI Act apply. Defences to actions for defamation, breach of copyright or infringement of copyright are extended to information published in good faith under the information publication scheme. There is a requirement, therefore, that the discretionary publication scheme be in accordance with the objects of the FOI Act and with guidelines issued by the Information Commissioner.
Guidelines issued by the Information Commissioner must be broad enough to support an agency-driven regime. This will allow flexibility for agencies to select material in accordance with their different size, functions and information holdings. It would be expected that an agency would make a decision about what and how to release information in collaboration with the Information Commissioner.
An agency will obviously consider information for which they know there is demand, and information that people might expect them to publish. However, the ‘usefulness’ of much information may not necessarily be evident to the agency. In addition, therefore, agencies need to consider mechanisms for people to tell them what they want. For example, an agency might set up internal mechanisms to engage its own staff in suggesting or passing on requests for information or data that might be published.
More effective would be a central facility for citizens, business and community groups to suggest information (including datasets) that they would like, even when they do not know which agency holds the data. The portal site, data.gov.au, recommended by this taskforce elsewhere in this report, should have a facility for people to suggest additional datasets that they want. The potential of such an approach was demonstrated when the beta site, data.australia.gov.au, hosted datasets made available for the MashupAustralia contest. The data.australia.gov.au site is a pilot, however, experience gleaned can be used to inform the development of the central portal for Australian public information datasets, providing a central place for people to access and request data. Data.gov.au should use the infrastructure and information management services developed by the Australian Government under the Australian Government Online Service Point Program to allow simple discovery of datasets and for users to easily suggest datasets. The lead agency would need to work with relevant agencies to ensure that requests for release of data are met wherever possible.
The taskforce asked for suggestions for information that might usefully be released in a contest on IdeaScale.255 Suggestions included much information that is already made available but at a cost, or under restrictive licensing.256
People can most effectively request publication of information when they know what information assets exist. The implementation of the proposed information publication scheme could further assist agencies in recognising their information assets and form the basis of an information register. Such a register would represent a core tool in improving the means by which others discover and locate data held. It would need to be based on types or classes of data that are named and described in such a way as to be meaningful to those outside the agency. In some cases, the register could include details of the reasons for release and non-release of data. It could also act as a ‘check-list’ for agencies in determining compliance with guidelines surrounding the release of PSI.
Apart from encouraging proactive publication, the publication scheme should also, therefore, assist the public to discover what information assets exist, and how they might get access to it.
5.10.2: Taskforce project report
The taskforce commissioned a report through its project fund to support the work of the taskforce and to contribute to its deliberations on the form and nature of the information publication scheme. The report, by Eric Wainwright and Dagmar Parer of eKnowledge Structures,257 provides a comprehensive view of the Australian and international contexts and recommendations for an approach for an information publication scheme for the Australian Government. The report also makes suggestions for implementation of the publication scheme.
The report includes suggested content for initial guidelines to be issued to agencies by the proposed OIC. The report also suggested content for a model information publication scheme and suggested guidelines for agency information publication plans.
A number of ‘quick wins’ are identified to help agencies increase discoverability of seven categories of information already covered by publication and reporting obligations. These cover information in Annual Reports, documents required to be tabled under Senate Procedural Orders, and documents required to be listed under FOI Act Section 9 Statements.
Other aspects of the report are summarised in Appendix C.
8.1 The taskforce recommends that, in the development, management and implementation of a government information publication scheme, the proposed OIC, once established, take regard of the findings and recommendations contained in the report Whole of Government Information Publication Scheme, Government 2.0 Taskforce Project 7.258
8.2 The taskforce supports the model for the publication scheme set out in the Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Bill 2009259 and notes that the Bill incorporates complementary aims. To reinforce its support, the taskforce recommends information publication schemes be developed with the following explicit aims. To:
8.2.1 provide an overall and consistent statutory framework for information publication by all agencies
8.2.2 encourage the widest disclosure of useful government information consistent with the public interest, and thereby greater trust in government
8.2.3 guide agencies in overcoming attitudinal, technological and legal barriers to optimal information disclosure and use, and to improved public engagement
8.2.4 provide a planning framework to assist agencies in their overall information management
8.2.5 provide an integrated and simplified guide for agencies to meet their information publication and reporting obligations
8.2.6 provide clear and understandable guidance to the public on their rights to, and methods of, accessing and using government information, leading to improved service delivery and public engagement in policy development
8.2.7 enable the proposed OIC to monitor schemes, and encourage agencies towards achieving government pro-disclosure objectives through reference to exemplars, and reporting of unsatisfactory progress.
- PSI should generally also be distributed at zero price even where marginal costs of distribution are small, rather than negligible. (Government 2.0 Taskforce, Project 6, The value of Public Sector Information for cultural institutions by Professor John Quiggin, http://gov2.net.au/projects/project-6 .)
- http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html .
- Ed Felten, David Robinson, Harlan Yu and Bill Zeller, ‘Government Data and the Invisible Hand’, (2009) 11 Yale Journal of Law and Technology 160, http://www.yjolt.org/11/fall/robinson-160  or http://tinyurl.com/yj6ztdu .
- David Eaves, ‘Three Laws of Open Government Data’ http://eaves.ca/2009/09/30/three-law-of-open-government-data/  or http://tinyurl.com/yb9nf6v .
- David Eaves, ‘Three Laws of Open Government Data’ http://eaves.ca/2009/09/30/three-law-of-open-government-data/  or http://tinyurl.com/yb9nf6v .
- Office of Public Sector Information, UK, www.opsi.gov.uk/unlocking-service/  or http://tinyurl.com/y9ze6zz .
- http://www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml .
- Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program, http://www.epa.gov/tri/ .
- http://www.epa.gov/triexplorer/ .
- See Right to Know Network TRI page, http://www.rtknet.org/db/tri .
- http://www.scorecard.org/ .
- http://www.fedspending.org/ .
- http://maplight.org/ .
- http://fundrace.huffingtonpost.com/ .
- http://www.opencongress.org/ .
- Renamed LobbyLens http://lobbylens.info .
- http://data.australia.gov.au/184 .
- https://www.tenders.gov.au/ .
- http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/11/17/qld-hansard-a-closed-book-to-openaustralia/  or http://tinyurl.com/y8d4cqs .
- http://www.news.com.au/technology/story/0,28348,25649658-5014239,00.html  or http://tinyurl.com/l8x544 .
- http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/national/national/general/govt-opens-up-to-participatoryict/1565831.aspx?storypage  or http://tinyurl.com/ybrdrpk .
- http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/psi/mepsir/index_en.htm  or http://tinyurl.com/y9xhc49 .
- Note there is a wide range of estimates of the value that is generated from PSI owing to the immaturity of the field and divergent assumptions about what PSI is and what value generation is dependent on it. See Pira International for a different approach which estimates a much higher value of PSI.
- See also Ed Mayo and Tom Steinberg, Power of Information Review: an independent review, commissioned by the UK Cabinet Office, June 2007, p. 34–35. http://www.england-legislation.hmso.gov.uk/advice/poi/  or http://tinyurl.com/yb2fxg7  and David Newbery, Lionel Bently and Rufus Pollock, Models of Public Sector Information Provision via Trading Funds, Cambridge University, 26 February 2008, http://www.opsi.gov.uk/advice/poi/models-psi-via-trading-funds.pdf [585k].
- Ed Mayo and Tom Steinberg The Power of Information Review: an independent review, commissioned by the UK Cabinet Office, June 2007, p. 34. http://www.englandlegislation.hmso.gov.uk/advice/poi/  or http://tinyurl.com/yb2fxg7 .
- Acil Tasman, (March 2008) The Value of Spatial Information: The impact of modern spatial information technologies on the Australian economy, available at http://www.crcsi.com.au/UPLOADS/PUBLICATIONS/PUBLICATION_324.pdf [ 2.07MB] or http://tinyurl.com/yabjcof [ 2.07MB] and Allen Consulting Group (November 2008) Economic benefits of high resolution positioning services. Final report (Proposed for Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment and the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information) http://www.crcsi.com.au/UPLOADS/PUBLICATIONS/PUBLICATION_348.pdf [ 312k] or http://tinyurl.com/y8e2csr [ 312k].
- Capgemini, 3 March 2008, ‘Failure to exploit information loses UK economy £67 billion a year’ at http://www.uk.capgemini.com/news/pr/pr1605 . Nokia expects mobile services based on Global Positioning System information to generate the main share of its future revenues. Using these, drivers can subscribe to realtime traffic information enabling them to anticipate traffic jams and/or check fuel prices in advance of choosing a petrol station. (European Commission Staff. 2009, Working Document Accompanying document to the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the re-use of Public Sector Information — Review of Directive 2003/98/ECONOMIC).
- http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/psi/docs/pdfs/directive/com09_212/staff_working_document.pdf [ 178k] or http://tinyurl.com/ylgrbau [ 178k].
- http://www.osdm.gov.au/OSDM/Policies+and+Guidelines/Spatial+Data+Access+and+Pricing/default.aspx  or http://tinyurl.com/kpgtsn .
- Growth in Spatial Data Delivered under free access
Year Scheduled Dataset Units Delivered
Source: Pollock, Rufus, 2009. ‘The Economics of Public Sector Information’, Cambridge Working Papers E 0920, May, p.35 http://www.econ.cam.ac.uk/dae/repec/cam/pdf/cwpe0920.pdf [394k ] or http://tinyurl.com/yflehgx [394k].
- James Boyle: 2005. ‘Public information wants to be free’, Financial Times, 24 February http://consommacteurs.blogs.com/pg/files/FreePublicInfo.pdf [84k] or http://tinyurl.com/yl8vjdv [ 84k]. Original reference can be found here: http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=a0AbDHMb5rAC&oi=fnd&pg=PA137&dq=”borders+in+cyberspace”&ots=Rba8jsGD2l&sig=Ybt4uynggQj6MzNzyBIa0WuayY#v=onepage&q=%22borders%20in%20cyberspace%22&f=false  or http://tinyurl.com/ykll3qc .
- Siu-Ming Tam, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Informing the Nation — Open Access to Statistical Information in Australia, Siu-Ming Tam, paper presented to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Work Session on the Communication and Dissemination of Statistics, Poland, May 2009, at para 37, available at http://www.unece.org/stats/documents/ece/ces/ge.45/2009/wp.11.e.pdf [164k].
- http://mappingouranzacs.naa.gov.au/ .
- National Archives of Australia, Submission to Towards Government 2.0: An Issues Paper, p. 19, http://gov2.net.au/submissions/ .
- http://newspapers.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/home .
- The site http://newspapers.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/home  has a league table of ‘Top Text-Correctors’. As at 10 November 2009 2100 the list was headed by jhempenstall with 288,593 corrections.
- Holley, Rose, March 2009. ‘Many Hands Make Light Work: Public Collaborative OCR Text Correction in Australian Historic Newspapers’, National Library of Australia, http://www.nla.gov.au/ndp/project_details/documents/ANDP_ManyHands.pdf [1.95MB] or http://tinyurl.com/yk34add [1.95MB]. Museums and archives are inviting the public to correct and enrich their collections with their own knowledge and artefacts.
- Similar projects aimed at improving, expanding and adding value to PSI are happening outside Australia, for example, Your Archives (http://yourarchives.nationalarchives.gov.uk ) was launched in beta in April 2007 by The National Archives in the UK. It is a wiki that allows people to submit both articles about historical subjects and articles about records in The National Archives’ collection. People can also use the site to collaborate with others on research projects and can edit other pages. The site does however retain a number of restrictions on the use of its data.
- http://www.unistats.com . Note: The relevant student opinion information is released in the UK — unlike in Australia — but it is still released subject to copyright which prevents others adding value to it without permission. Gruen 2008 argues that substantial additional value could be added to it and it is likely that some of this would be added if the data were permissively licensed.
- http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/0/27/40826024.pdf [ 295k] or http://tinyurl.com/59tafe [ 295k]. These principles have been reproduced in Appendix E.
- An example of such a framework is the ABS’s data quality framework, which can be accessed at http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/1520.0Main%20Features1May+2009  or http://tinyurl.com/yd6owv7 .
- http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Voltaire .
- There are many occasions where some principle is endorsed, but remains largely unimplemented. Thus for instance in 1986 the Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, announced a rigorous new process of regulatory impact assessment. However the then Office of Regulation Review did not report on compliance with the policy by department. In the absence of this accountability, the policy was fully complied with in only 8 per cent of cases even after the policy had been announced and operating for a decade. Industry Commission report, 1997, Regulation and its Review 1996–97, p. 41 Table 3.2.
- Gartner Symposium in Sydney on 17–19 November 2009.
- See ‘The Theory of SPIN: Serial Professional Innovation Negation' on the taskforce blog at http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/08/04/the-theory-of-spin-serial-professional-innovation-negation/  or http://tinyurl.com/yl8ncym .
- http://gov2.net.au/blog/2009/07/23/official-issues-paper-released/  or http://tinyurl.com/log2om .
- Tikka Wilson, Submission to Towards Government 2.0: An Issues Paper, http://gov2.net.au/submissions/ .
- See Office of the Privacy Commissioner, ‘Top ten privacy issues’, speech, 2007, p. 11, http://www.privacy.gov.au/materials/types/download/8562/6429  or http://tinyurl.com/yj7d3lk .
- Of course this has been true of IT platforms since before the advent of Web 2.0. It was one of the keys to the success of Microsoft’s operating systems.
- McKinsey and Co, What Matters, 30 October 2009, http://whatmatters.mckinseydigital.com/internet/creative-commons-enabling-the-next-level-of-innovation  or http://tinyurl.com/yapz9mf .
- Government 2.0 Taskforce Project 4, Copyright and Intellectual Property by Professor Anne Fitzgerald, http://gov2.net.au/projects/project-4 .
- Copyright Act 1976, Section 105 states that ‘[c]opyright protection … is not available for any work of the United States Government, but the United States government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise’. A ‘work of the United States Government’ is defined in s 101 as a work prepared by an officer or employee of the US Government as part of the person’s official duties. However, there are exceptions to the general rule for certain works of the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the US Postal Service. http://www.wipo.int/clea/en/text_html.jsp?lang=EN&id=3923  or http://tinyurl.com/y9jnulb .
- Copyright Act 1994 (NZ). Section 27 excludes Bills, Acts, regulations, bylaws, Parliamentary debates, Select Committee reports, judgements of courts and tribunals, reports of Royal commissions, commissions of inquiry, ministerial inquiries, statutory inquiries. http://www.wipo.int/clea/en/text_html.jsp?lang=EN&id=3299  or http://tinyurl.com/ybje7l9 .
- Copyright Law of Japan (1970 and later amendments). Article 13 excludes the Constitution and other laws and regulations, state or local public entity notifications, judgements, decisions, orders and decrees of law courts, rulings and decisions of administrative judicial organs and translations of the above made by state or local public entities. http://www.wipo.int/clea/en/text_pdf.jsp?lang=EN&id=2620  or http://tinyurl.com/y9x6ka4 .
- Polish Law of 1994 on Copyright and Neighbouring Rights. Article 4 exclusions include official documents. http://www.wipo.int/clea/en/text_pdf.jsp?lang=EN&id=3500  or http://tinyurl.com/y8tmqsw .
- Copyright Act 1978 (South Africa). Section 12(8) exclusions include official texts of a legislative, administrative or legal nature and official translations of such texts, speeches of a political nature or delivered in the course of legal proceedings. http://www.wipo.int/clea/en/text_pdf.jsp?lang=EN&id=4067  or http://tinyurl.com/y8jxkke .
- Republic of Korea (South Korea) Copyright Act (Act 3916 of 1989 and later amendments). Section 1 (7) includes exclusions for Acts and regulations, public notices issued by the state or local public entities, judgements, decision, orders or ruling of courts , rulings and decision by administrative appeal procedures, official translations of the above, speeches in open session of courts, the National Assembly or local assemblies. http://www.wipo.int/clea/en/text_pdf.jsp?lang=EN&id=2743  or http://tinyurl.com/yd5jd8n .
- Taiwan Copyright Act, 2007. Article 9 exclusions include the constitution, acts, regulations or official documents or official translations thereof. http://www.giprs.org/node/299 .
- Thai Copyright Act B.E. 2537 (1994). Section 7 exclusions include the constitution and legislation, regulations, bylaws, notifications, orders, explanations and official correspondence of the ministries, departments or other government or local units, judicial decisions, orders, decisions and official reports and official translations of the above. http://www.wipo.int/clea/en/text_pdf.jsp?lang=EN&id=3801  or http://tinyurl.com/ye6x4be .
- http://www.budget.gov.au/2009-10/content/copyright.htm  or http://tinyurl.com/y9fjr65 . The taskforce notes that much government material is licensed under even more restrictive licensing terms that do not even permit personal and internal use. See e.g. the State of the Service Report ‘Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission by the Commonwealth.’ (http://www.apsc.gov.au/stateoftheservice/0809/report.pdf [ 3.72MB] or http://tinyurl.com/y89wtnc [ 3.72MB]). Maximally protecting ‘all rights reserved’ claims seems to be common on government websites.
- This occurred when Google sought permission to republish bushfire location information on public lands during the horrific Victorian bushfires of 2009. Their request could not be met by agency staff who felt that the only response they could give was a refusal unless Google was prepared to wait for the request to be escalated to heads of departments for consideration, by which time the need for the data was less desperate. (Information supplied to the taskforce by Google).
- A web page or application that takes data and combines it either with other data or other web services to create something new. For example, a mashup may take data about the location of government services such as Medicare and Centrelink offices and then plot their locations and other associated data on a map.
- A folksonomy is a system of classification derived from the practice and method of collaboratively creating and managing tags to annotate and categorize content. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folksonomy .
- They can avoid this by bringing their proposed use within an implied licence. However Australia’s limited exceptions such as fair dealing are unlikely to cover much of the remix and reuse done on commercial Web 2.0 platforms.
- http://www.smh.com.au/news/digital-life/mobiles--handhelds/articles/how-railcorps-derailing-commuterapps/2009/03/06/1235842625754.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1  or http://tinyurl.com/yas7zvl .
- ‘NSW public transit plan hits delay’, Australian Financial Review, 29 Sep 2009 http://afr.com/p/business/technology/item_HeBer3hi5b9I9CGqmA8kWO  or http://tinyurl.com/ya7chzb .
- http://www.creativecommons.org.au/licences .
- NSW Young Lawyers, submission to Towards Government 2.0: An Issues Paper, http://gov2.net.au/submissions/ .
- http://www.comlaw.gov.au/comlaw/Legislation/ActCompilation1.nsf/0/2E3EEB3B6191AB60CA2574FF0081BA02?OpenDocument  or http://tinyurl.com/ya5sx5y .
- S Ricketson and C Creswell, Law of Intellectual Property (1999), LBC Information Services: Sydney [3.155].
- The recent decision of the Full Federal Court of Australia in Copyright Agency Limited v State of New South Wales (2007) FCAFC 80, which held that the delivery of a survey plan of land by a surveyor to their client amounted to ‘publication’.
- An important category of PSI held by public collecting institutions is information for which the copyright is held by third parties who cannot be identified or located.
- National Archives of Australia, Submission to Towards Government 2.0: An Issues Paper, http://gov2.net.au/submissions/ .
- The definition is: ‘information, including information products and services, generated, created, collected, processed, preserved, maintained, disseminated, or funded by or for the government or public institutions, taking into account [relevant] legal requirements and restrictions’.
- Provided at no cost in the absence of substantial marginal costs.
- Supported by metadata that will aid in the understanding the quality and interpretability of the information.
- The Semantic Web involves a vision of a machine-readable web, where intelligent agents would be capable of understanding data presented online by interpreting the accompanying metadata.
- Not having limitation on derivative uses.
- http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/au/ .
- A consistent clause should be developed by Department of Finance and Deregulation and inserted as a standing requirement of all Commonwealth Contracts — similar to that used to ensure access and reporting by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).
- ‘Any data kept in an electronic record, where each piece of information has an assigned format and meaning’. http://www.mgrush.com/content/view/70/33/ .
- This would include, for example, the removal of specific fields or records. However, in considering appropriate treatments, agencies should avoid unduly compromising the potential value of the data that may be derived.
- All departments of state and material agencies see http://www.finance.gov.au/publications/flipchart/index.html or http://tinyurl.com/yhkrbe2 .
- http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22legislation%2Fbillhome%2Fr4163%22  or http://tinyurl.com/ycqhp83 .
- Recommendation 4, Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee. Inquiry into improving access to public sector information and data, Victorian Parliament, June 2009, http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/edic/inquiries/access_to_PSI/  or http://tinyurl.com/nkbruu .
- There may also be a variety of restrictions on the rights of cultural agencies to license the material having purchased it from third parties with their own ambitions to license it elsewhere. The taskforce does not envisage that its recommendation for all contracts for the provision of material to government which will become PSI should extent to third party ‘content’ contracted to agencies such as the ABC and SBS.
- Bray, Paula, 2009, ‘Open Licensing and the Future for Collections’, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia at http://www.archimuse.com/mw2009/papers/bray/bray.html  or http://tinyurl.com/yf7qb6m .
- http://www.dpmc.gov.au/consultation/foi_reform/index.cfm  or http://tinyurl.com/d7ywkt .
- http://gov2taskforce.ideascale.com/a/ideafactory.do?discussionID=8036  or http://tinyurl.com/ykkb2gs .
- This reinforces the need for PSI to be released in accordance with the principles set out in this report, particularly that it be free, based on open standards, easily discoverable, understandable, machine-readable and freely reusable. See Recommendation 6.
- Government 2.0 Taskforce Project 7, Whole of Government Information Publication Scheme, by Eric Wainwright and Dagmar Parer, eKnowledge Structures, http://gov2.net.au/projects/project-7 .
- http://gov2.net.au/projects/project-7 .
- http://www.dpmc.gov.au/consultation/foi_reform/index.cfm  or http://tinyurl.com/d7ywkt .
Contact for information on this page: email@example.com
Notwithstanding the general copyright licence provided for on www.finance.gov.au, the Government 2.0 Taskforce’s report and associated material is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia licence  except where the copyright of others is cited.
The report should be attributed as the Government 2.0 Taskforce Report; the logo and front page graphic should be attributed to Ben Crothers of Catch Media.