Australian Copyright Laws Stymied Google Bushfire Map Overview

from the what's-the-purpose-of-copyright-again? dept

In the US, any documents produced by the federal government are in the public domain and not covered by copyright. However, that’s not necessarily true in other countries. Australia, for one, has the concept of Crown copyright, where the government retains copyright on its documents. Sometimes that creates ridiculous scenarios, such as last week, when Google was trying to create a map overlay of useful information about the extent of the massive Australian bushfires that killed hundreds. Instead of being able to map all of the fires, the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment denied Google’s request to get data needed to plot the fire’s location on public lands, citing Crown copyright. Yes, it appears the government blocked this useful resource because of copyright issues.

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Companies: google

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Comments on “Australian Copyright Laws Stymied Google Bushfire Map Overview”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“My understanding, which may or may not be correct, as I am subject to hallucinations of my own, is that It’s ok to use government doc’s, info etc. as long as one cites the author and source. Spank me hard if I’m wrong.”

Depends on which country’s documents your are speaking of and in which country you use them in along with which country you are a citizen of.

Stephen Williams (user link) says:

Re: US Government non-copyright

Any US (and I think state or local) government document work produced by a government agency is in the public domain. There may be other restrictions on access and use (national defense classification, privacy act, etc.). There also may be costs to get a copy, although those are finally dissipating. For instance, you used to have to pay a lot to get Census tapes.

The fact that information is public record and not copyrighted or copyrightable doesn’t mean that you have easy access to it. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) can get you access to a lot of information that is routinely private to a government agency, but is technically public. Other recent anti-terrorism acts have sometimes made public information problematic to access.


JustMe says:


Not sure what other resources might be out there but if I had friends or family in the area I would consider having a real-time map of the blaze a matter of public safety. If my in-laws house in directly in the path I;d kind of like to be able to pull up a map and see that.

I;m sure there was some other resource for doing just that (right?) but if not then I would think Google would try and play up the public safety card.

MeBubbleHead says:

copyright and communism

The left wing communications and entertainment,(hollywood) industry is a conglomeration of unions, guilds, associations, and their contractors. They have used copyright law as the backbone that protects them. We are living in the dark ages of art because the freedom to compete is controlled. This government bailout of the arts was written(art.1, sec8) to include a cessation of the protection. When the government gets out of the copyright business we will see a renaissance of art like never seen on the planet. An example: The movie theatre industry. The theatre associations that contract with the unions get first release of blokbuster movies. After a month or so the cable networks followed by the DVD release. Take away the copyright protection and the producers would have no choice but release every movie simultaneously. In order for the theatres to stay in business they would have to compete by offering what we call today “futuristic theatres”. To fend of copyright pirates the producers would have to streamline their services to include daily blockbuster grade releases. The notion of one hit wonders supporting 6 generations of family members in a lavish lifestyle will be replaced by hard work rewarded to those with true artistic abilities. The practice of worshipping the “golden calf” or golden mouse will cease, and that will placate the ultraright religous sects. Thousands of jobs and new businesses will arise like the phoenix from the ashes of copyright to replace it with new systems of distribution, and art that was once taboo or in the grey area will now find it’s day.

Allen (profile) says:

A friend with a house in the area (still standing) told me the best source of information he had was the police, suggesting that speaking to any group directly responsible for managing the situation was a waste of time.

It’s shameful that the copyright could be used to block dissemination of information like this. But I’m inclined to suspect that the Department just didn’t want to expose just how poor their information was/is.

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