This paper finds that Australian Government agencies are embracing open access and a proactive disclosure culture, and that open licensing under Creative Commons licences is increasingly prevalent, but that shortcomings need to be addressed.
As support grows for greater access to information and data held by governments, so does awareness of the need for appropriate policy, technical and legal frameworks to achieve the desired economic and societal outcomes. Since the late 2000s numerous international organizations, inter-governmental bodies and governments have issued open government data policies, which set out key principles underpinning access to, and the release and reuse of data. These policies reiterate the value of government data and establish the default position that it should be openly accessible to the public under transparent and non-discriminatory conditions, which are conducive to innovative reuse of the data. A key principle stated in open government data policies is that legal rights in government information must be exercised in a manner that is consistent with and supports the open accessibility and reusability of the data. In particular, where government information and data is protected by copyright, access should be provided under licensing terms which clearly permit its reuse and dissemination. This principle has been further developed in the policies issued by Australian Governments into a specific requirement that Government agencies are to apply the Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY) as the default licensing position when releasing government information and data. A wide-ranging survey of the practices of Australian Government agencies in managing their information and data, commissioned by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner in 2012, provides valuable insights into progress towards the achievement of open government policy objectives and the adoption of open licensing practices. The survey results indicate that Australian Government agencies are embracing open access and a proactive disclosure culture and that open licensing under Creative Commons licences is increasingly prevalent. However, the finding that "[t]he default position of open access licensing is not clearly or robustly stated, nor properly reflected in the practice of Government agencies‟ points to the need to further develop the policy framework and the principles governing information access and reuse, and to provide practical guidance tools on open licensing if the broadest range of government information and data is to be made available for innovative reuse.