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Crown Copyright

Video overview by Kylie Pappalardo on crown copyright.

The term “crown copyright” refers to Government (or “Crown”) owned copyrights. These include:

  • works made by or under the direction or control of the Crown (s 176);

  • works first published by the Crown (s 177); and

  • sound recording and films made by or under the direction or control of the Crown (s 178).

The duration of Crown copyright is 50 years.

The Copyright Law Review Committee (CLRC) recommended the abolition of special privileges for the Crown in their report, Crown Copyright (2005), but the Australian Government did not implement these recommendations.

The Copyright Tribunal heard a claim by the Copyright Agency Limited (CAL), whose members include surveyors, for orders under ss 183(5) and 183(A) of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) in respect of a number of surveyors’ plans and the State of New South Wales’ ‘dealings’ in respect of them. Following the determination of the Tribunal, questions of law were referred to the Full Federal Court.

Held, that the New South Wales Government did not own copyright in the surveyors’ plans. The court stressed that, when considering the issue of Crown copyright, it is important to understand the relevant legislation under which the works are created and its history.

Finkelstein J on Crown copyright:

  • “As regards to work made by the Crown, we are necessarily dealing with a fiction. Generally for copyright purposes a work is made by its author. What s 176 contemplates is that, in certain circumstances, the act of the author in making a work is to be attributed to the Crown. An attribution of this kind is a concept well known in the law.”