Crown copyright concerns were raised repeatedly during this summer's copyright consultation as many groups expressed the view that government works should be treated as public domain. The issue generated some surprise from Industry Minister Tony Clement, who asked for examples about why crown copyright was a problem. This morning, the Auditor General provided a helpful example as her office has sent takedown demands to the Globe and Mail and Scribd for posting one chapter from her report (Globe article, Scribd post). The office argues that crown copyright applies and that a written request for permission on a case-by-case basis is required. Leaving aside the fact that this is arguably fair dealing – it is news reporting and consists of one chapter from a much larger report – the very notion that Canadians need advance permission to post a portion of government report runs counter to the Auditor General's own efforts at government transparency and efficiency. The Auditor General should be encouraging broad dissemination of her work, not sending legal demand letters to shut down Internet postings.
This incident highlights yet again why the Canadian government needs a far more progressive approach to its own copyright policy. It should be leading by example by: (1) dropping crown copyright and (2) adopting Creative Commons licences on its work and sites to promote the use of government documents without permission (see this list for similar examples from around the world).
Update: The Globe has reposted the chapter on Scribd roughly 24 hours after initially taking it down. It is good to see the paper stand up for fair dealing in this case.