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Crown copyright is a form of copyright claim used by the governments of a number of Commonwealth Countries. It provides special copyright rules for the Crown, i.e. government departments and state entities. Crown copyright is defined under section 163 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 as works made by officers or servants of the Crown in the course of their duties. This includes legislation, government codes of practice, Ordnance Survey mapping, government reports, official press releases, academic articles and many public records. There is, in addition, a small class of materials where the Crown claims the right to control reproduction outside normal copyright law due to letters patent issued under the royal prerogative. This material includes the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.
Copyright can also come into Crown ownership by means of assignment or transfer of the copyright from the legal owner of the copyright to the Crown. Copyright in a work which has been assigned to the Crown lasts 70 years after the death of the person who created it. The default licence for most Crown copyright and Crown database right information is the Open Government Licence (OGL).
Much Crown copyright material is made available to use free of charge under the Open Government Licence and no other licence is required.
Where Crown copyright material is covered by the Open Government Licence, you can:
· Copy, publish, distribute and transmit the information
· Adapt the information
· Exploit the information commercially and non commercially, i.e. by combining it with information of your own
Some Crown material is subject to a waiver, which means that it may be reproduced in any format, free of charge, without obtaining official permission. Categories of Crown material for which copyright has been waived includes government press notices, legislation and explanatory notes on the legislation, ministerial speeches, consultation documents, documents on official websites.
The duration of Crown copyright varies depending whether material is published or unpublished. Unpublished material was originally subject to copyright protection in perpetuity. However, the 1988 Act removed this concept from British law. Transitional provisions that apply for 50 years after the entry into force of the 1988 Act provide that no unpublished material will lose its copyright protection until 1 January 2040. New Crown copyright material that is unpublished has copyright protection for 125 years from date of creation. Published Crown copyright material has protection for 50 years from date of publication.
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