Tag Archives: Elizabeth Judge

Paper Spotlight: “Enabling Access and Reuse of Public Sector Information in Canada” by Elizabeth Judge

Enabling Access and Reuse of Public Sector Information in Canada: Crown Commons Licenses, Copyright, and Public Sector Information

Elizabeth Judge

University of Ottawa – Common Law Section
October 14, 2010


Although the proactive disclosure of public sector information has been called a “basic right of citizens” and a “public right,” Canada has not yet implemented a national strategy to support public access to public sector information and enable its reuse. Public sector information, which is information created by government in the course of governing, is essential for transparency, accountability, democratic participation, and citizen engagement. This article examines public sector information and analyzes developments in Canada and other jurisdictions to promote its public access and reuse. It discusses the extent to which public sector information has been integrated into copyright reform efforts and, where public sector information is copyright protected, it discusses the mechanisms available within the copyright framework to facilitate public access and reuse of public sector information, focusing in particular on licensing. In Canada, Crown copyright restrictions and complicated licensing limit access to public sector information. The article recommends that Canada establish a centralized portal for open government data and implement Crown Commons licenses, which together would advance the objective of open government data by ensuring that public sector information is accessible online in usable formats, easily found, and not encumbered by restrictive Crown copyright licensing conditions.


Number of Pages in PDF File: 45

Keywords: public sector information, open government data, government data, open access, Crown Copyright, Creative Commons, copyright


Research Area: Copyright and Privacy Law Issues Arising from the Geoweb

Professor Elizabeth Judge, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law

Year 1: “Implied License for Downstream Uses of Copyrighted Information
on the Geoweb”

How does copyright law apply to material individuals submit to
government-operated websites, such as original compilations of
geographic data, surveys, or maps?

Authors of copyrightable works are the first owners of copyright and
have a bundle of exclusive rights, including the right to prevent others from
copying and publishing their works. Copyright arises automatically,
and authors need not actively affirm or register their copyright to obtain
protection. Moreover, individuals do not waive their copyright by a failure
to exercise their rights. However, certain actions by a copyright owner
may constitute an implied license or waiver of copyright, permitting
others to do activities that would otherwise be copyright infringing.

The Geoweb promises to connect individuals seamlessly, to allow individuals to
communicate with government, and for governments to use these inputs to
fashion policy responses. Copyright is potentially an obstacle to
realizing the potential of the Geoweb, especially the ability of the
public to contribute and use the information, as it may be difficult to
determine what information is protected by copyright and what uses the
government and the public may make of information posted online by

The research will discuss which material is subject to copyright
and examine how the legal mechanisms of implied license and waiver may
apply to information that individuals contribute to the Geoweb. It will
discuss the legal framework for addressing whether government may make
such information publicly available and what uses the public can
subsequently make of these works, and it will suggest best practices to
facilitate public participation in a copyright-compliant manner,
including licensing.