The Christchurch earthquake, NZGOAL and Creative Commons

Christchurch Cathedral

Image from Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K Orion (CC BY)

The New Zealand Government’s need for imagery, film footage and data after the recent Christchurch earthquake to help in the various relief efforts and the need for it to be freely available for re-use by individuals and organisations alike has brought the utility of the New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing framework (NZGOAL) and Creative Commons licensing into sharp focus. In Post-quake imagery of Christchurch carries CC licence, Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand has published a timely piece which showcases some of the initiatives across government to apply NZGOAL and license material for re-use using open Creative Commons licences.

Those assisting with some of the government initiatives referred to in the Creative Commons post have learned a couple of things from the experience. On the one hand, some agencies and officials within agencies are well aware of NZGOAL and are both willing and able to apply it to enable the legal re-use of government owned copyright material. On the other hand, other agencies and officials have limited awareness of it. That is no criticism. It’s simply a statement of fact.

What was most illuminating, in one case involving film footage of the post-earthquake CBD, was that a request to assist with licensing of certain material assumed (understandably) that there might be legal documents to draft and sign as a prerequisite to releasing the material for re-use. The official concerned wasn’t familiar with the detail of NZGOAL but, once explained, he was was most interested. He was after a quick and efficient solution to enable the licensing of valuable material, with the express purpose of enabling others to re-use it in a hassle-free way, and was pleased to learn that we could rapidly apply a Creative Commons Attribution licence to it and without requiring prospective users of the material to sign a single document. Using NZGOAL’s review and release process, we were able to undertake the requisite legal analysis quickly and provide him with rapid turn-around of the copyright and licensing statements he needed to apply to the material. From start to finish, the whole process took little more than an hour. Shortly thereafter we saw the material springing up on multiple websites around the country.

The purpose of this story, then, is that it shows that open data – in this case open licensing of film footage – was helpful for both the agency concerned and those who wished to re-use the film footage for their own purposes (whether they were the media or otherwise). Can we put a monetary figure on this particular example of open data and open licensing? Not really, no. Was it in the public interest in the wake of a major disaster to make this film footage freely available? It certainly was.

(As noted above, the image of the damaged Christchurch Cathedral was taken from a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K Orion and is licensed under a (CC BY licence.)


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