Stephen Collins – Intellectual property and government

Yes. IP, it’s happened interestingly in Australia, for example most of my work being in Camberra, I work mostly with government. The government’s made two really interesting decisions in the last 12 months. One, that information that’s produced for government organizations about their projects if it’s not private information, because if it’s information about you then obviously it’s very private. But information that’s produced may it be math information or health information, that doesn’t have people’s information, must be made open licensed so maybe creative comments.

And the other really important thing is that we need to release it before it’s asked for. So not only do you make creative commons but you make it available automatically to the public. That’s changed the way intellectual property particularly in government is being looked at. It’s very different because in Australia, it used to be the government had a special type of copyright. And it was very difficult to get access to the information that the government produced. In a useful way, you might get it in a report, or whatever but it wasn’t something that you and I can take say like XML and reuse and combine with other data to make it useful.

Now that’s very much changed. There’s a long way to go. Not all the information is yet available but more and more government agencies here in Australia are using creative comments and making huge amounts of information very easily available. And listening to the public about how they should produce the data so the public can use it.

For private companies, that’s a much harder question because they have to make Coinstar locations money with the information that they, and the knowledge that they produce. So the question is, how do you resolve things like intellectual property laws and patents. So that if you’re an inventor in an organization, you can create something that’s going to make the organization money but it’s also going to create good for the public. It’s a very hard balance. And again, I have no answer. I don’t think anyone does.

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