Licensing Requirement for Works Exempt from Copyright Protection by Law


In many countries around the world, a number of official documents, such as legislation and court decisions, are exempt from copyright protection. This means that they can be copied, re-used, modified and published for any purpose (commercial or otherwise) without the need to seek any permission because copyright does not apply to them.

For example, Article 4(a) of the Copyright Law of Oman says the following:

Article (4):
Protection shall not cover mere ideas, procedures, working methods, mathematical concepts,
principles, discoveries and data.
Additionally, protection shall not cover the following:
a. Official documents of whatever original language or translated language, as texts of
laws, regulations, decisions, agreements, international conventions, judicial orders,
judgments of arbitrators and decisions issued by administrative committees with
judicial competence, as well as official translations.

In the case of Oman, the department responsible for legislation has put a notice regarding this matter on its website:

The website of the Ministry of Legal Affairs contains official documents such as Royal Decrees and Decisions and which are considered part of the public domain excluded from copyright protection and which may be reproduced, republished, and used without restrictions.

This is a very clear example of how the need to have an actual license is not required for the data to be considered open. Do people agree with this?

What about other cases where the document is certainly exempt from protection by law (another example from Oman is the annual budget which is issued by Royal Decree), but no notice about this has been made about it on the website. Whether or not the website has a copyright notice does not change the legal status of the document - you can’t claim works in the public domain to be protected by copyright by simply saying so.

Legislation is excluded from copyright protection in many countries, I wonder what people think about this matter?

How to measure legal openness: The role of public domain status and open licensing

I believe the Open Definition 2.1 Draft recognises and addresses this issue. @herb_lainchbury and the team are close to releasing this new version. Let us know your thoughts.


Thanks @Stephen , that’s great to hear. I wonder what kind of evidence would be required when making submissions to the index regarding this matter. Would it be sufficient to make reference to the relevant article in the copyright law to justify stating that the data is open or does the website of the department must explicitly state that the data is exempt from the protection? I think many government websites in developing countries simply put a copyright notice without thinking of whether or not the content is in the public domain. The practice of stating that the material is in the public domain (such as in the example from the website of the Ministry of Legal Affairs in Oman) is not common at all.


I think adding references and details in the comments section would suffice. @Mor?

Entry for Government Budget / Belgium

SO… this is a very complicated one. Many countries do put copyrights under the government automatically on data (not only developing countries @bluechi), and do not put this disclaimer.

If a country has a notice about public domain on the website, then this is openly licensed. If the data is public domain under law, but there is no disclaimer or appropriate license, then it is not openly license. Notices are important since they help to reduce confusion about the law to both citizens and government alike, and I think we should encourage them this way.