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-- JonathanMo - 14 Sep 2015

Copyright in any original work created or first published by or under the direction or control of the Crown belongs to the Crown. In this context, the Crown refers to all Federal, State and Territory government departments and some statutory authorities. Special rules govern the length of time the Crown can retain copyright (see How long does copyright protection last?, this section). A compulsory licence scheme authorises the Crown to exercise any of the rights of a copyright holder on subject matter if such exercise is 'for the services of' the Crown' [CA ss.182B-183A].

Crown copyright has a very wide scope. For example, the copyright of a school text published by the Department of Education would belong to the Crown, even if no payment had been made to its author. A person producing a work for a government department or working on a government-funded project should ensure that copyright ownership is clear before beginning work. Government departments have a tendency to assume total ownership of copyright or tacitly ignore the issue [CA ss.176-179].

It is unclear as yet whether prisoners own copyright in artworks or other creative works they produce in jail. If they use materials provided by the prison their works may be considered as produced under the direction or control of the Crown. On the other hand, if the prison exercised no creative control over the artist's work, it is arguable that the prisoner retains copyright. This issue has not yet been tested before the courts.

In respect of 'equitable' ownership of copyright between the Crown and the individual, see Attorney-General (UK) v Guardian Newspapers Ltd (No 2) [1988] 3 WLR 776 at 788, 791, 800-801 (UK Spycatcher case).

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