Government hands IP to software developers

Software developers get first choice of intellectual property in all ICT procurement negotiations

The Attorney-General’s Department has mandated eligible Federal Government agencies provide software developers and independent software vendors with first rights to intellectual property (IP) for software developed under contract from 1 October.

According to an updated Statement of Intellectual Property Principles for Australian Government Agencies released by the Attorney-General’s Department last week, those agencies and departments subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (‘FMA Act’) must take a default position of leaving all IP rights to the software developer. Exceptions to the mandate exist in cases of security, public interest and conflicts with existing Commonwealth policies, but the updated principles will see software developers offered the right to retain and commercialise IP in ICT procurement negotiations.

Agencies will still be required to undertake an IP needs analysis during negotiations to determine whether a Commonwealth license should be appropriated for public use.

However, under the new principles, software developers will be required to grant the government as a whole a perpetual and irrevocable, royalty free licence to the software for whole-of-government use where appropriate.

“Where the supplier is not willing to agree to the whole-of-government licence, the supplier should not retain ownership of the IP,” the updated principles document reads.

The new approach to intellectual property, which provides more incentive for developers to conduct long-term business with some government agencies, aligns with recommendations made as part of the Gershon Review into ICT procurement and consolidation.

The updated principles document will ultimately form part of the wider Australian Government Intellectual Property Manual when it is updated and released.

First flagged in May, it provides one of very few wins for the Department of Finance-led project of late, with IT managers telling Computerworld Australia the government initiative was dead in the water. Despite the nearly $1 billion in savings the project is aimed to save the government, it was revealed during the Federal election that the Labor party would re-divert almost half of the savings to non-IT projects.

However, industry representative bodies remain glad of the latest change.

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