The Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH) is dedicated to supporting New Zealand’s arts, media, heritage and sports organisations, including Creative New Zealand, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, RadioNZ and many more.
MCH also produce a range of public resources, including Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand and NZ History Online. Since 2011, the text for both of these sites is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand Licence.
As Matthew Oliver, Manager of the Web Team at MCH, puts it, “We recognised that the taxpayer has paid for this content to be developed, and were aware of plans around NZGOAL, and we saw our content as part of that.”
NZGOAL refers to the New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing framework, which encourages public sector agencies to use Creative Commons licences, to enable the public to share, remix and reuse publicly funded content.
The team was happy to fulfil the principles of NZGOAL, as they had already recognised the importance of disseminating their content. “The more we could get our content used, the more we justify our work. By making our content available for reuse, we show that our content is important, that there is a need.
“The sticking point came down to what sort of licence we’d adopt, which is why we ended up using the non-commercial licence. We had to consider author’s rights, publishing and licensing deals. We were also sensitive to authors, who often work for very little, or for free.”
Matthew believes that Creative Commons licensing could help to reduce some of the duplication that occurs in the cultural sector. “If one organisation is good at storing images, and another is good at writing stories about images, lets combine them, rather than repeating each other’s work.
“It’s great that the cultural sector is starting to share each other’s work, but we should also be sharing it with the public. This ties into the Government’s commitment to supporting innovation. There are some great New Zealand companies who would love some good content. We’ve got content. It’s there. With Creative Commons licensing, they can use it.”
Without Creative Commons licensing, some innovative and important projects may suffer in quality, or never get off the ground. “You just don’t know what people will do with this content, if they could get hold of it. If you make the content available, someone with more time and more expertise is going to do something that a government organisation can’t do.”
Researchers also benefit from open licensing, as it simplifies the process of clearing picture rights. “We also don’t know how much time this is adding to their research, and what they’re deciding not to use.”
Matthew hopes that culture and heritage institutions will continue to open up their collections. “I’m inclined to start from a default position of everything should be open, and let’s see where the problems come up. There’ll always be problems—privacy, donor agreements, WAI262—but the vast majority of content isn’t affected. Start from the other direction.
“If you lock your content away, nobody knows about it. Forget advertising. You don’t need an advertising budget if you let your content go out there and speak for you. If your image goes out there, and it’s got a link back to your website—and if somebody finds that content useful and spreads the word about it—you’re getting free advertising. You’re letting the asset that you’ve got go and promote you as an organisation.”