Crown copyright is a form of copyright claim used by the governments of a number of Commonwealth realms. It provides special copyright rules for the Crown, i.e. government departments and (generally) state entities. Each single Commonwealth realm has its own distinct Crown copyright regulations. There are therefore no common regulations that apply to all or a number of those countries. There are some considerations being made in Canada, U.K., Australia and New Zealand regarding the "reuse of Crown-copyrighted material, through new licenses".
Crown copyright by country
Under Part VII of the Copyright Act 1968, the Australian Government holds copyright in any work, film or sound recording made by or under the direction or control of the government, and any work first published by or under the direction or control of the government. The term for Crown copyright in Australia is 50 years after creation. Unpublished works are permanently protected by Crown copyright.
Section 182A of the Act provides that for certain "prescribed works", copyright is not infringed for making one copy of the whole or of a part of that work, as long as it is not sold for a rate that is above the actual costs of copying. Prescribed works generally include legislation and court judgments.
An extensive review was carried out in 2004 and the findings were published in 2005 in the Copyright Law Review Committee's report. The chief recommendation was to end the distinction between the Crown and other copyright holders. In particular, the committee was "emphatic" that the Crown should lose its unique position of gaining copyright over material whenever it is the first publisher of such material. For example, a previously unpublished short story, upon being published in a government work, would cease to belong to the author and would instead become Crown copyright, denying the author any future royalties or rights to it. The 2005 report issued by Australia's Copyright Law Review Committee supports a repeal of Crown copyright provisions, which would "respect statutory provisions respecting employer ownership of works authored by employees and contractual arrangements for assigning copyright in commissioned works." By 2009, there were recommendations to change Crown copyright, allowing Crown copyrighted works to be licensed and given open access.
European Union countries "exempt primary source law from copyright protection, the European Union does not have a uniform law on copyright subsistence or copyright ownership of government documents and does not mandate that laws be in the public domain". The EU has also given free and open access to official government documents online for European parliament.
Normally, copyright in Canada "exists for the life of the author/creator, the remainder of the calendar year in which he is deceased, plus fifty years after the end of that calendar year". For Crown copyright however, there is a slight difference. Canadian Crown copyright is based on the concept of royal prerogative and "is not subject to the usual statutory copyright term". This prerogative is referenced at the outset of section 12 of the Copyright Act, which states that this section is made "Without prejudice to any rights or privileges of the Crown". Crown copyright covers all works that are "prepared or published by or under the direction or control of Her Majesty or any government department." In this way, "work produced by government departments, whether published or unpublished, may be protected either permanently or at the whim of the Crown". Subsequently, Crown copyright can be, in certain cases, "said to be perpetual...and not to lapse through non-use or non-assertion", and that a "right to certain works by prerogative amounts to a perpetual term of copyright protection". One example is where the "Arms of Canada as designed in 1921 and revised in 1957...[and] as revised in 1994...are protected under the Trade-marks Act and the Copyright Act", maintaining Crown copyright long after the normal 50-year period. Crown copyright exists for a variety of reasons, such as to ensure accuracy and integrity, to control symbols used to identify the Crown and its agents, as well as to supervise and control the publication of government works as the public's trustee.
In Canada, Crown copyright also applies to "primary law, but there are certain circumstances however when reproduction is allowed. The reproduction of statutes, consolidations of legislation, judicial reasons for judgments, and administrative tribunal decisions is covered by the Reproduction of Federal Law Order" the reproduction of primary law is also permissible as long as it is represented as a reproduction and is accurate. There is also open access online to versions of case law and statutes. Canada has implemented a variety of open data portals for GIS data as well as a geographical information license. In Canada, open data projects can also provide some content. Aside from specialized GIS licensing, license negotiations and agreements must be made to the Crown Copyright and Licensing department. Anyone in need of crown copyrighted material must submit a request for permission. Those seeking printed works may submit a request on publications.gc.ca.
E-petition and review
There was an e-petition submitted to the House of Commons in 2017, which asserts that the Canadian Crown Copyright protocol needs to be updated to allow access and distribution rights to Canadians. The e-petition argues that "access to government information and the ability to distribute and encourage its reuse" is critical to society. The petition also states that Crown copyright issues have prevented libraries from engaging in the access and preservation of government information. Following the 2017 petition, the House of Commons formally responded and highlighted the review of the Copyright Act, which began in June 2018 and will resume September 2018.
Specific terms and conditions are as follows:
|Jurisdiction||Type of license||Description|
|Canada||Reproduction of Federal Law Order||Anyone may, without charge or request for permission, reproduce enactments and consolidations of enactments of the Government of Canada, and decisions and reasons for decisions of federally constituted courts and administrative tribunals, provided due diligence is exercised in ensuring the accuracy of the materials reproduced and the reproduction is not represented as an official version.|
|About Crown copyright||As of 18 November 2013, Crown copyright and Licensing is no longer centrally administered. For specific Crown copyright information, the department or agency that created the information must be contacted. This has resulted in varied approaches by different organisations, where "the non-commercial licence has disappeared from the Public Works and Government Services site and it is unclear whether it remains active", and where "some departments have denied permission or asserted Crown copyright to take down content."|
|British Columbia||Guidelines Covering the Reproduction of Provincial Legislation||A person may make a copy of specific acts or regulations, in whole or in part, for personal use or for legal use.
Libraries may make single photocopies of specific acts or regulations, in whole or in part, in response to requests from the public, subject to the following rules:
|Court Services Online – Copyright notice||The following policy governs the operation and management of the government's main Web site and all Web sites of ministries, and agencies reporting to ministries.
Copyright © 2001, Province of British Columbia All rights reserved
All material owned by the Government of British Columbia is protected by copyright law. It may not be reproduced or redistributed without the prior written permission of the Province of British Columbia.
Court record information on this web site may not be reproduced or redistributed without the prior written permission of the court.
For requests relating to the reproduction of provincial legislation, permission is subject to the conditions outlined in the Guidelines Covering the Reproduction of Provincial Legislation.
|Alberta||Copyright and Permission Statement||Alberta Queen's Printer holds copyright on behalf of the Government of Alberta in right of Her Majesty the Queen for all Government of Alberta legislation. Alberta Queen's Printer permits any person to reproduce Alberta's statutes and regulations without seeking permission and without charge, provided due diligence is exercised to ensure the accuracy of the materials produced, and Crown copyright is acknowledged in the following format:
© Alberta Queen's Printer, 20__.*
The year of first publication of the legal materials is to be completed.
The official Statutes and Regulations should be consulted for all purposes of interpreting and applying the law.
|Saskatchewan||Copyright notice||Materials on this website are owned by the Government of Saskatchewan and protected by Crown copyright.
Unless otherwise noted materials may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes. The materials must be reproduced accurately and the reproduction must not be represented as an official version. As a general rule, information materials may be used for non-profit and personal use. There are important exceptions to this general rule:
Reproduction of any materials for commercial purposes requires the advance written permission of the Government of Saskatchewan.
Crown copyright should continue to be acknowledged in the following form:
© 2011, Government of Saskatchewan.
|Manitoba||Copyright Notification||The following statement governs the operation and management of the government's main website and all departmental websites, and reporting agencies.
Copyright © 2011, Province of Manitoba All rights reserved
This material is owned by the Manitoba government and protected by copyright law. It may not be reproduced or redistributed without the prior written permission of the Province of Manitoba.
For requests relating to the reproduction of provincial legislation, permission is subject to the conditions outlined in the Manitoba Laws Notification web page.
To request permission to reproduce all or part of the material on this website, please complete the Copyright Permission Request Form.
|Manitoba Laws Copyright Notification||Copyright on the electronic version of Manitoba laws belongs to the Province of Manitoba. You may, without charge and without requesting permission, make copies of all or part of any Act or regulation for study or research, or for use in legal proceedings or for providing legal advice. You must not make copies for any other purpose without first obtaining the written consent of Queen's Printer. Any copy you make must not be represented as an official version.|
|Ontario||Policy on Copyright on Legal Materials||The Queen's Printer for Ontario holds copyright in Ontario statutes, regulations and judicial decisions. The Queen's Printer permits any person to reproduce the text and images contained in the statutes, regulations and judicial decisions without seeking permission and without charge. The legal materials must be reproduced accurately, and Crown copyright in the legal materials must be acknowledged in the following form:
© Queen's Printer for Ontario, 20__.*
The year of first publication of the legal materials is to be completed.
The Legislation Act, 2006 sets out which copies of Ontario statutes and regulations are official copies of the law. Reproductions of statutes and regulations that are not official copies under that Act must state that they are not official versions. Reproductions of judicial decisions must state that they are not official versions.
|Quebec||Normes en matière de droit d'auteur||Summary: No permission is given for free reproduction. Licenses must be obtained under prescribed procedures.|
|New Brunswick||Copyright notice||Copyright
The Province of New Brunswick, through the Queen's Printer, owns and retains the copyright for New Brunswick's legislation.
Permission to reproduce
The legislation on this site has been posted with the intent that it be readily available for personal, educational and public non-commercial use and may be reproduced, in whole or in part and by any means, without charge or further permission from the Queen's Printer, provided due diligence is exercised in ensuring the accuracy of the materials reproduced.
Reproduction of materials at this site, in whole or in part, for the purposes of commercial redistribution is prohibited except with written permission from the Queen's Printer. To obtain permission, mail or e-mail your request to the Queen's Printer directly.
|Nova Scotia||No specific policy on reproduction.|
|Prince Edward Island||Copyright notice||Unless otherwise specifically stated herein, all materials on this website, including text, photos, underlying HTML, illustrations, maps, designs, icons, audio clips, video clips, documents, products, software and all other content is either owned by the Government of Prince Edward Island, or the Government of Prince Edward Island has obtained a license to use the materials for the website.
The materials on this site are protect by the Copyright Act. Reproduction of any materials requires the advance written permission of the Government of Prince Edward Island, or the original creator, where applicable.
To request permission, contact the web content team of Communications PEI using the website comments and suggestions form and detail your request in the comments section.
Visit the Tourism PEI website for information on use of Tourism PEI stock images by industry and media.
Information on this site has been posted with the intent that it be readily available for personal and public non-commercial use and may be reproduced, in part or in whole and by any means, without charge or further permission from the Government of Prince Edward Island.
|Newfoundland and Labrador||Disclaimer/Copyright/Privacy Statement||Copyright
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is the owner of copyright in all information found on this Web site unless otherwise stated.
Where the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is the owner of copyright in information on this Web site, government hereby grants permission for the information of this web site to be used by the public and non-government organizations. Persons and organizations using this information agree to indemnify and save harmless the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador against any claims or actions of any kind or manner resulting from its use.
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador uses multi-media, i.e. graphics, audio and visual materials, on this Web site with permission of third party copyright holders. Reproduction of such materials is not permitted.
|Yukon||Copyright notice||Material on Government of Yukon web sites may be printed, copied or reproduced for non-commercial purposes only. Reproductions must be accurate and must not be represented as an official version. Reproduction or redistribution for commercial purposes requires advance written permission from the Government of Yukon.
Copyright must be acknowledged in the following form:
© Government of Yukon 2011
|Northwest Territories||Copyright and disclaimer notice||Copyright
The legislative material in the consolidations may be used for a non-commercial purpose without seeking permission, provided that it is accurately reproduced and includes an acknowledgment of the Government of the Northwest Territories as its source. Reproduction of the legislative material is permitted, in whole or in part, and by any means.
|Nunavut||Department of Justice Legislative Division||The Department of Justice believes it is of fundamental importance to Nunavummiut that their laws be accessible. To ensure access to the laws of Nunavut, the following may be copied freely for personal use:
There is no requirement to seek permission and there are no fees to be paid for reproductions of the statutes and regulations for personal use. The electronic versions of the statutes and regulations may not be copied for the purpose of resale in this or any other form without the written consent of the Territorial Printer.
Crown copyright in New Zealand is defined by Sections 2(1), 26 and 27 of the Copyright Act 1994. The Crown is the first owner of any copyright subsisting in any work created by a person who is employed or engaged by the Crown, under a contract of service, apprenticeship, or a contract for services. It covers works of the Queen in right of New Zealand, Ministers of the Crown, offices of Parliament and government departments. The term is 100 years. Crown copyright would apply as long as no other copyright agreement had been made. In 2001, primary law and other official works were removed from Crown copyright protection. Like Australia, New Zealand is considering the implementation of open licenses for works protected by Crown copyright.
A term of 100 years also applies under Section 26(3)(b), with one exception, namely a 25-year term for typographical arrangements of published material. Such works produced before 1945, however, had only a term of 50 years, and so became public domain in 1995.
At common law, and under the Copyright Acts until recently, the Crown acquired title by a kind of prerogative copyright in certain books or publications such as acts of Parliament, proclamations, and orders-in-council. However, there has been a deliberate divestment by the Crown of its copyright in law – principally in consideration of the view that law should be freely available.
Section 27(1) defines a further exception to Crown copyright and copyright: bills, acts of parliament, regulations, bylaws, Hansard, tabled select committee reports, court judgments, tribunal judgments, royal commission reports, commission of inquiry reports, ministerial inquiry reports and statutory inquiry reports do not carry any copyright, regardless of age. Section 27(1) came into effect on 1 April 2001. There is, in New Zealand, under s. 27 of the Copyright Act, 1994, no copyright in regulations. Section 27(1) exceptions apply in the original work, and do not apply in terms of new typographical editions by others, nor in annotations made by organisations such as legal publishers.
Crown copyright applies "[w]here a work is made by Her Majesty or by an officer or servant of the Crown in the course of his duties". The Crown can also have copyrights assigned to it. There is, in addition, a small class of materials where the Crown claims the right to control reproduction outside normal copyright law due to letters patent issued under the royal prerogative. This material includes the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.
Prior to the 17th century, the executive – acting on behalf of the monarch under royal prerogative – controlled all printing and the granting of licences to printers. During the 17th century, the Crown lost most of its rights, except with regard to the King James Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, Acts of Parliament and similar. Until 1911, there was no special status for the Crown, excepting those texts.
The Copyright Act 1911 removed the concept of common law copyright protection from British law, and it also provided specific protection for government works for the first time. Crown copyright was extended to any work prepared or published by or under the direction or control of King George V or any government department. The Copyright Act 1956 further extended Crown copyright protection to include every original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work made by or under the direction or control of Her Majesty or a government department; sound recordings or cinematograph films made by or under the direction or control of Her Majesty or a government department and works first published in the UK, if first published by or under the direction or control of Her Majesty or a government department.
When the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (the 1988 Act) came into force, the scope of the definition of Crown copyright was considerably reduced. Crown copyright was defined as subsisting when a "work is made by Her Majesty or by an officer or servant of the Crown in the course of his duties". Crown copyright was also defined as subsisting "in every Act of Parliament, Act of the Scottish Parliament, Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly or Measure of the General Synod of the Church of England". All existing works in Crown copyright were continued as such.
However, some documents have Crown copyright waived by the government, subject to certain conditions. This was introduced in a white paper in 2000 in order to improve access to government publications. This listed ten classes of documents for which "formal and specific licensing will not be necessary".
- Primary and secondary legislation
- Explanatory notes to legislation
- Government press notices
- Government forms
- Government consultative documents
- Government documents featured on official departmental Web sites
- Headline statistics
- Published papers of a scientific, technical or medical nature
- Text of ministerial speeches and articles
- Unpublished public records
The duration of Crown copyright varies depending on whether material is published or unpublished. Unpublished material was originally subject to copyright protection in perpetuity. However, the 1988 Act removed this concept from British law. Transitional provisions that apply for 50 years after the entry into force of the 1988 Act provide that no unpublished material will lose its copyright protection until 1 January 2040. New Crown copyright material that is unpublished has copyright protection for 125 years from the date of creation. Published Crown copyright material has protection for 50 years from the date of publication. Those works protected under Letters Patent have perpetual control of reproduction claimed over them despite being published. Where copyright in a work is assigned to the Crown by an author it is subject to the normal term of protection for that particular type of work, for example, life of the author plus 70 years for a literary work.
The UK government has historically charged fees for access to some Crown copyright works in order to offset costs.
In the UK there are allowances for the use of a select amount of copyrighted works (waivers), without the need for prior permission. For materials that still require a license, there is an online application process. Like Canada, materials used must be accurately represented.
Acts of Parliament and works from the legislative body of the Church of England are Crown copyright. Crown copyright also formerly covered parliamentary materials, however since 1988 materials created for the House of Commons and House of Lords have a distinct status in law as being protected by parliamentary copyright.
Crown copyright has historically been perceived[by whom?] as depriving taxpayers of access to the very works they fund, and as prioritising funded business interests over otherwise regular citizens who cannot afford to license the works. However, the UK Government has developed a trend of automatically licensing all works published on gov.uk and The National Archives under the Open Government Licence.
- Copyright status of work by the U.S. government, by contrast, most works of the United States government are legally considered to be in the public domain
- Crown land
- Official text copyright
- Parliamentary copyright
- Judge, E. F. (2011). Crown copyright and the reuse of government information: Access and limitations. In P. Garvin (Ed.), Government information management in the 21st century : International perspectives (pp. 211–222). Burlington, VT: Ashgate Pub.
- Australia 2009, Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0 Taskforce, 10–11.
- "Vic Govt limited Google's bushfire map". ZDNet. 12 February 2009. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
- "Copyright Act (Canada), S. 12". Archived from the original on 20 December 2013.
- "How long does Copyright last?". Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada. 19 November 2013. Retrieved 6 March 2014.
- "Crowning Copyright – When Copyright Works are Deemed to Belong to the Government". www.bereskinparr.com. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
- Judge, Elizabeth (2005). In the Public Interest: The Future of Canadian Copyright Law. Irwin Law. p. 557.
- La Force, Gina (Winter 1981). "Archives and Copyright in Canada: An Outsider's View". Archivaria. 11: 42.
- Vaver, David (6 June 1995). "Copyright and the State in Canada and the United States". University of Montreal. Archived from the original on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
- Smith, David (2013). Invisible Crown: The First Principle of Canadian Government. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 77. ISBN 978-1442615854.
- Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (10 May 2010). "Legal Protection (Canada) – Official Symbols". Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
- Canada. Parliament. House of Commons. E-petitions (2017). E-1116 (Copyright). 42nd Parliament. https://amandawakaruk.ca/crown-copyright-in-canada/e-petition-1116/
- Canada. Parliament. House of Commons. Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (2017). Statutory Review of the Copyright Act. 42nd Parliament, 1st session.
- "Reproduction of Federal Law Order". 6 June 2012. Archived from the original on 6 June 2012.
- Government of Canada Publications (28 November 2013). "Crown copyright and Licensing". Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada. Archived from the original on 6 December 2013. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
- Geist, Michael (25 November 2013). "Government of Canada Quietly Changes Its Approach to Crown copyright". Retrieved 11 December 2013.
- "Laws Publications - Government". www.bclaws.ca.
- Services, Ministry of Citizens. "Intellectual Property Program - Province of British Columbia". www2.gov.bc.ca.
- "Court Services Online - Copyright". British Columbia: Ministry of the Attorney General. Archived from the original on 27 December 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
- Alberta, Government of (18 April 2007). "Copyright and Disclaimer". www.qp.alberta.ca.
- "Unsupported Browser - Government of Saskatchewan". www.saskatchewan.ca. Archived from the original on 3 May 2018. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
- "Province of Manitoba - Copyright Notification". Province of Manitoba.
- "Province of Manitoba - Manitoba Laws Copyright and Disclaimer Notification". Province of Manitoba.
- "Attorney General - NB Acts and Regulations". 7 September 2011. Archived from the original on 7 September 2011.
- "Government of Newfoundland and Labrador". Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
- "Copyright - Government of Yukon- Government of Yukon". www.gov.yk.ca.
- "Department of Justice - Legislation". 27 September 2011. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 October 2014. Retrieved 4 October 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Copyright Factsheet – National Library of New Zealand" (PDF). Find.natlib.govt.nz. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
- Oxford and Cambridge Universities v. Eyre & Spottiswoode Ltd  Ch 736 (Plowman J declined to decide the extent of the Crown prerogative over the publication of Bibles) and Attorney-General for New South Wales v. Butterworth & Co (Australia) Ltd (1937) 38 SR 195 (the Crown prerogative to control the publication of statutes was contested). See also Hansen v. Humes–Maclon Plastics Ltd (1984) 1 NZIPR 557 (no Crown copyright in drawings filed in the Patent Office).
- Copyright Act Commencement Order 2000 (SR 2000/245), cl. 2.
- UK copyright waivers, from Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO): Future Management of Crown copyright. Which documents are subject to waivers varies from time to time; see the current list: Archived 14 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- "Open Government License 2.0". The National Archives. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
- "What OGL covers". The National Archives. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
- "Crown Copyright in the Information Age" (PDF). Opsi.gov.uk. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 July 2019. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
- Application to obtain copyright licence from Canadian government (PDF file)
- Sterling, J.A.L. Crown copyright in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth Countries.
- Vaver, David. Copyright and the State in Canada and the United States.
- Intellectual Property Policy Group, Ministry of Economic Development, New Zealand. What Does Not Qualify for Copyright Protection? (from Copyright Protection in New Zealand).
- Ah Kit, Jonathan. Section 27 and Public Domain Page.
- Ted Tjaden, "Chapter 4: The Impact of Crown copyright on Access to Law-Related Information" (PDF file) in Access to Law-Related Information in Canada in the Digital Age.
- Crown copyright information from the Office of Public Sector Information, Queen's Printer for the United Kingdom.
- Use of information previously covered by the UK Crown copyright waiver