Victoria loosens IP and data access rules

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Victoria loosens IP and data access rules
Gordon Rich-Phillips, Victorian Government's Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Technology

Attempts to match the Australian Government's approach.

The Victorian Government has followed the Australian Government's lead on intellectual property, asking its agencies to consider sharing IP with suppliers and open its data sets up for public use.

Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Technology Gordon Rich-Phillips announced Friday that  data sets [pdf] will be made more freely available under the policy.

The policy also prescribes a more consistent approach on ownership of intellectual property in IT systems purchased by the Government [pdf].

Data sets

The so-called "DataVic Access" principles bare a strong resemblance to similar initiatives by the Australian Government [pdf].

With limited exceptions, government data will be made available at “no or minimal cost”.

The actual cost of accessing this data won't be known for some months. 

Whilst the former Victorian Labor Government recommended use of Creative Commons licensing by default back in February 2010 - which mirrored the Australian Government's position, the Victorian Coalition Government’s policy states only that data will be made available under “flexible licenses”.  

Mandatory standards and guidelines won't be released until November 2012 after a review by the Assistant Treasurer.

A full review of the data access policy will further be undertaken by the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance and submitted to the Assistant Treasurer in June 2014.

An area of immediate commercial interest may be access to spatial and transport data, which some State Governments have been loathe to make generally available without a considerable license fee.

IP in Government purchasing

Key principles stated in the Victorian Government's policy include [pdf] that the Government will grant rights to its intellectual property with the “fewest possible restrictions”.

These restrictions include reasons of privacy, public safety, security and law enforcement, public health, commercialisation and compliance with the law.

The Government will only acquire ownership of the intellectual property if obtaining a licence is not adequate, the policy stated. The policy stresses that the government is not in the business of commercialising intellectual property, and does not create intellectual property in order to generate a financial return.

Victorian agencies are also limited to commercialising IP or applying Cost Recovery Guidelines to intellectual property only when the agency has an explicit statutory function to do so or where it has been authorised by the Treasurer due to a “clear net benefit to the Victorian community”.

The policy responds to a seven year old report the Victorian Auditor-General, which found that with the exception of information technology purchases, many agencies view full ownership of IP as the default position.

The Auditor urged the Government to think more flexibly about IP ownership when developing requests for tender and purchasing arrangements, as the IP might otherwise be unintentionally “locked up”.

If an agency has no plans to commercialise the solution, it could have negotiated a lower price for the development by allowing the developer to retain rights to the IP, and simply purchasing a licence for its own use, the policy noted.

The status quo in all Australian jurisidictions, set by the Government Information Technology Conditions (GITC), had previously suggested that individual agencies were encouraged to develop individual intellectual property (IP) management frameworks reflecting their own needs and objectives, consistent with other relevant Australian Government policies and requirements.

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