Miles Nicholls, Atlas of Living Australia and Stephanie von Gavel, Legal Counsel, CSIRO

What is it and why is the ALA encouraging its use?

The Atlas of Living Australia has recently developed a Data Provider Agreement. The agreement sets out the terms and conditions upon which a data provider, data owner or even the custodian of data, makes available their data to both the ALA and the end users of the data accessed through the ALA. The agreement is intended to be consistent with not only ALA’s intellectual property and information management policies, but also similar data sharing arrangements from other biodiversity informatics initiatives such as:

The agreement has certain obligations on both ALA and the data provider covering such things as:

  • how the data and its derivatives can be used by ALA – eg reproducing, displaying, storing, adapting
  • sharing of the data with similar biodiversity informatics initiatives – eg TERN, AVH, GBIF and EOL
  • ensuring that the data provider has the right to provide the data – eg owns the data or has permission to provide it
  • notification of any restrictions around the data – eg personal information, sensitive data
  • limitation of liability

What sort of data is covered by the agreement?

The data that can be included under the agreement can vary in form such as images, text, sounds, video, but also type – species information, occurrence data, geospatial data, identification keys, databases and metadata etc. Much of this data is protected by copyright – namely when an original work is created. But it should be remembered that copyright doesn’t cover mere facts or ideas but rather the form in which ideas and information are expressed.

Data compilations such as databases and datasets can be covered by copyright especially where there is a sufficient degree of originality. This originality comes from “independent intellectual effort” by authors of the database. This means there has to be some exercise of skill, labour or judgement, some creativity, some organisation or analysis in the selecting and presenting of the data in the database. It can’t just be an automated process (even if it is expensive), or a form of expression of the database which is merely dictated by the nature of its content or the purposes for which it is designed.

There may be cases where there is no copyright in the data – for instance where copyright has expired (eg 70 years after the end of the year of the creator’s death) or where the data does not qualify for copyright (eg mere facts, names). In the agreement we refer to this as Public Domain and essentially any one can use that type of Public Domain data how they wish without infringing copyright. ALA believes however that it is important that there still be some attribution associated with such public domain information when specifically provided by someone.

On what terms will the data be made available through ALA?

An important feature of the ALA Data Provider Agreement is the use of the Creative Commons suite of licences. Creative Commons (CC) provides an internationally recognised framework for the licensing of copyright material – including biodiversity data. The CC licences are standardised copyright licences which grant some basic permissions such as the right to:

  • copy the work
  • distribute it
  • display or perform it publicly
  • make digital public performances of it (e.g., webcasting)
  • shift the work into another format as a verbatim copy

There are also a series of four “optional” licence elements which allow you to select the different ways you want the public to use your material. You can also combine the different elements. These elements include:

  • Attribution (BY) – the author of the work must be attributed, and the work not falsely attributed
  • Non Commercial (NC) – the work can only be used for non-commercial purposes
  • Share Alike (SA) – if a derivative work is made then the derivative work must be distributed under the same licence terms as the original work
  • No Derivatives (ND) – only exact copies can be shared and derivatives or adaptations of the original work are not permitted.

For a useful summary of Creative Commons and Data see a fact sheet by our NCRIS collaborator ANDS.

The ALA promotes free and open access to data and would encourage all data providers to license their data with minimal restrictions wherever possible. Opportunities for fruitful integration and analysis of data are greatly increased when the data can be freely combined. The Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia License provides for the most open of access but other routinely used CC licences include the Creative Commons Non-Commercial 2.5 Australia License. Where a data provider has special licence terms which are not adequately covered by the CC licence terms, then the ALA Data Provider Agreement provides the opportunity to include these specific terms.

Who else is using Creative Commons?

Open access to data, especially to public sector information using Creative Commons is being adopted and recommended by many Australian agencies at both a national and international level:


If you have any questions or comments on the ALA Data Provider Agreement, Creative Commons or data sharing via the ALA in general (including if you have data you would like to share) please contact the ALA Data team at