Copyright and ownership

It is important that there is clarity of copyright and ownership of intellectual property within the inquiry’s records. In the course of the inquiry any information created by civil servants or other officers or servants of the Crown will be Crown copyright. Clarity will be required for other material including the finished report, the evidence and any source materials considered during the inquiry process. The inquiry terms of reference should specify that the copyright in the report and any associated materials produced by the chair and members of the inquiry shall also rest with the Crown. The chair should consult the Cabinet Office and The National Archives, who may in turn need to consult their respective legal advisers.

Wherever possible, the easiest solution to manage and administer will be for the copyright of inquiry records to rest with the Crown. This is because well-established licensing processes for Crown and Crown-owned copyrights are already in place through the UK Government Licensing Framework and the Open Government Licence (OGL) – these licences facilitate and encourage the re-use of public sector information, including important public documents such as inquiry reports. This will ensure not only that the chair and the members of the inquiry team will also have unfettered access to the materials but that others will be able to access and re-use it. This is important in the interests of openness and transparency.

During the establishment and course of the inquiry the following points should be considered:

  • To ensure that the Crown is able to authorise re-use, the chair should arrange for the copyright in the report and any associated materials produced by the chair, members of the inquiry, and other inquiry staff to be assigned to the Crown. The chair should ensure that members of the inquiry are aware of the copyright arrangements and that everyone working on or for the inquiry sign any appropriate copyright assignment documents unless they are officers or servants of the Crown, for example civil servants who have been officially seconded to the inquiry.
  • The inquiry needs to identify and safeguard the copyright and ownership of any content maintained by electronic software that the inquiry utilises at the earliest possible stage. In particular, software licences must be obtained, not only for the inquiry but which also apply to the Crown for the term of the copyright. For example, contractual agreements should include provision for the transfer of the software licence, the migration of data after the inquiry, and the ownership of the content.
  • The chair should ensure that permission has been acquired, by licence, to use and re-use all third-party copy material (i.e. material produced by people other than the members of the inquiry team). Ideally third-party copy should be made available under the terms of the OGL. This copyright should be appropriately acknowledged and the source identified subject to redactions for Data Protection purposes.
  • The inquiry team needs to resolve any other copyright issues which would, for instance, prevent HMG from hosting material on a government website following the closure of the inquiry. Archiving and republication of material of the website by The National Archives as part of its web archiving programme to preserve the public record is permitted under section 47 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.
  • It is important that in the interests of transparency and openness all obstacles to reporting, publishing, disseminating and granting the right of re-use of materials created or obtained by or submitted to the inquiry are minimised. This will require clarity from the outset as to how materials are to be used during the inquiry as well as after it has reported. The terms under which the output of broadcasters and other news media will be used should also be clarified.
  • The importance of clear licensing of copyright should be made plain to people who are giving evidence to the inquiry. Upon commencement, an inquiry usually issues a statement inviting people and groups to submit evidence. This should say that any evidence given will be subject to licensing terms permitting use as required by the inquiry (preferably the OGL), followed by permanent preservation at The National Archives and public access when the information is no longer confidential or sensitive.
  • It is suggested that for any televised proceedings the inquiry acquires licences ensuring future access arrangements. With regards to audio/visual content of proceedings presented on the inquiry website, The National Archives may reproduce the content in accordance with section 47 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, however the inquiry should ensure licences are put in place to enable HMG  to continue to make this material available to the public following the closure of the inquiry.

Find out more:

UK Government Licensing Framework

Copyright and related rights (PDF, 0.71MB)

Crown copyright: An overview for government departments (PDF, 0.10MB)

Section 163 of Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988