Licensing datasets

Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) is the default licence for datasets released under the DataVic Access Policy.

This chapter contains the following key action:

1. Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) is the default licence for datasets released under the DataVic Access Policy.

6.1 Licensing datasets under the Policy

When datasets are made available, they need to be done so under licence, to the extent they are protected by copyright (see (a)(i) 6.2 below). Public sector datasets should be released under terms allowing flexible public re use without further permission. Applying Creative Commons (CC) licensing is the recommended way to achieve this. The default licence is CC BY 4.0 as it is the least restrictive licence for datasets released under the Policy.

Detailed information on licensing can be found in the Victorian Government Intellectual Property Policy Intent and Principles and supporting Guidelines.34

Copyright subsists in a dataset or database where the work of an author, in reducing that compilation to material form (including digital form) involves some intellectual activity that is directed not at collecting or inputting the data, but in expressing the work. Accordingly, a given dataset may or may not be subject to copyright.

As it is difficult to determine whether copyright subsists in a dataset, it is recommended that agencies apply a copyright licence. The licence should state that the data or dataset is subject to the terms of the licence to the extent that the data or dataset is protected by copyright.

Agencies may in some circumstances wish to seek specific legal advice about the State’s capacity to license particular intellectual property, including datasets.

Datasets and databases could include multiple copyright works, collated and or created by human labour or through the use of software programs. Datasets and databases may have a number of components that are protected by copyright including the model or schema for the database, data entry and output sheets and the data itself, to the extent to which it is, or includes, created or expressive works.

This chapter applies to State owned datasets. Where datasets are likely to include third party data made available to the agency under agreements or arrangements with third parties or terms of consent, the agency will need to consider whether these permit it to license the dataset using a non-restrictive licence.

6.4 Form of licence

The most appropriate form of licence for State owned data containing copyright material will vary depending on the type of material involved and the circumstances surrounding making the dataset available. Generally, the recommended form of licence for copyright material is a Creative Commons (CC) licence.

6.4.1 What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons (CC) refers to international copyright licences which have been developed for use by the owners of copyright material, including governments. CC licences are designed to provide copyright owners with an efficient way to manage the rights contained in their copyright work, and to provide copyright users with simple and flexible terms for use.

A CC licence always requires that users attribute the work in the form specified by the licensor.35 Attribution also requires the user to indicate if changes have been made to the work and to provide a link to the CC licence. CC also allows the copyright owner to apply one or more of three additional conditions, discussed below.

CC allows users of works to reproduce, communicate, distribute and perform those works without prior permission or payment. Some CC licences also allow users to make derivative works and to use works for a commercial purpose.

CC licences are applied by the licensor when the work is published. This process is automated via online tools. These tools include a version of the licence in ‘human readable’ form, the legal code which sets out the terms and conditions of the licence, and digital code which enables metadata to be attached to the on line version of the work.36

CC licences are designed to be used ‘as is’. Each contains a non exclusive licence which is stated to be worldwide, royalty free, non exclusive and perpetual (subject to the termination provision). They do not provide for the imposition of licence fees, or licensing for a limited duration or purpose.

6.4.2 Creative Commons licences

The licence recommended for use by agencies under the Policy is CC BY 4.0.

There are 6 CC licences available. Each is identified by a combination of the symbols, an acronym and a descriptive label.

Table 5: CC licences available
Image Label Acronym Licence conditions



  • attribution as required by licensor 37

Attribution – ShareAlike


  • attribution as required by licensor
  • any derivative works must be distributed under the same licence

Attribution – NoDerivative Works


  • attribution as required by licensor
  • derivative works must not be made

Attribution – Noncommercial


  • attribution as required by licensor
  • work must not be used for commercial purposes

Attribution – Noncommercial – Share Alike


  • attribution as required by licensor
  • work must not be used for commercial purposes
  • any derivative works must be distributed under the same licence

Attribution – Noncommercial – NoDerivatives


  • attribution as required by licensor
  • work must not be used for commercial purposes
  • derivative works must not be made

CC BY should be used with most copyright material that is made publicly accessible. However, in some limited circumstances, an alternative CC licence may be more appropriate. For example, if an agency needed to prevent any commercialisation of copyright material (which would not normally be the case under the Policy), CC BY NC may be the most appropriate licence. Agencies should carefully consider whether an alternative CC licence is appropriate, in consultation with its IP Coordinator, DTF at and, if required, legal advice.

The current version of CC licences is 4.0, which was released in November 2013. The original DataVic Guidelines recommended the use of the previous version 3.0, and some agencies have already released material under version 3.0. It is recommended that agencies now adopt version 4.0.

The following information in these Guidelines on CC relates to CC BY 4.0. The use of other CC licences may involve issues not addressed in the Guidelines. Legal advice should be sought before doing so.

6.4.3 How to apply a CC BY 4.0 licence to new material

Prior to making appropriate State owned copyright material available to the public, a CC BY licence should be applied as follows.

A CC BY licence may be applied to copyright material by attaching a notice to this effect to the work. Accordingly, departments and agencies are encouraged to apply CC BY licences to template documents.

In many cases, the following notice may be appropriate:

© State of Victoria ([name of agency, for example, ‘(Department of Treasury and Finance)’]) [year]

This work, [insert title of work], is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence [link to]. You are free to re use the work under that licence, on the condition that you credit the State of Victoria ([name of agency]) as author, indicate if changes were made and comply with the other licence terms.

[Optional addition to exclude aspects of the work from the CC licence:] The licence does not apply to [specify which aspects of the work the licence does not apply to, for example. ‘any branding’ or ‘any images or photographs’]

The ‘optional addition’ at the final sentence of the notice enables agencies to exclude aspects of a work from the CC licence. For example, it can be used to ensure that the State does not provide third parties with a licence to use its branding, in order to protect the State’s reputation. Images and photographs may also be appropriate to exclude because they are often owned by third parties. However, this exclusion should only be used in appropriate circumstances, and should not unduly limit the scope of the licence. Agencies are encouraged to consult with its IP Coordinator, DTF at, if required, seek legal advice.

These Guidelines are licensed under CC BY 4.0. See the rear side of the cover page above for the copyright notice. DTF has also applied CC licences to its template documents and publications. More information is available at

It is recommended that the notice be accompanied by a symbol indicating the CC licence applied. The symbols are available on the CC website at

The CC BY symbol is as follows:

For online materials, the agency should include the Digital Code provided by CC.

The CC Australia website contains useful material relating to the application of CC licences by government.38


35. For example, by attributing the name of the author or copyright owner.

36. This metadata, which can be added to by the licensor, allows works to be readily searched online.

37. A user of the work must attribute it as required by the licensor. For example, agencies should request that users of their copyright material attribute it to the State of Victoria. This condition also requires the user to indicate if changes have been made to the work and provide a link to the CC licence.